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Dose: WCF Game 1 Preview

Sunday, May 14, 2017


The Warriors are heavy favorites heading into Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, which tips off Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. EST on ABC, but Spurs fans received good news on Saturday when coach Gregg Popovich announced that Kawhi Leonard had practiced fully and would play.

Despite Leonard being held out of Game 6 in Houston, the Spurs still shockingly smashed the Rockets to close out that series. However, it is almost impossible to imagine them even competing with the Warriors unless they get exceptional production from Leonard. Kawhi is not only the team’s leading scorer, he’s also arguably the best perimeter defender on planet earth. And, when you're matched up against the Warriors otherworldly offense, you need all the defensive help you can muster.

However, Leonard likely won’t be 100 percent, even though he’s been able to rest for four days. It will likely take a group effort from San Antonio on Sunday. Jonathan Simmons stepped in and stepped up in a big way for the Spurs late in the Rockets series. He finished with 18 points and four assists in Game 6, the first postseason start of his career. Danny Green also knocked down some big buckets vs. Houston. The Spurs will need Green to contribute on both ends of the floor against Golden State. The star of Game 6 was LaMarcus Aldridge, who poured in 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. After a lackluster start to the postseason, including a putrid Game 1 vs. Houston in which he scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting, Aldridge made his presence felt when it mattered most.

If the Spurs are going to hang tough against the Warriors on Sunday, they are going to have to slow the tempo down, make it a slugfest and rely on their defensive prowess. The Spurs were No. 1 in defensive efficiency during the 2016-17 regular season, allowing just 100.9 points per 100 possessions. San Antonio can’t expect to beat Golden State in a shootout.

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The problem for San Antonio is that the Warriors were No. 1 in offensive efficiency this season, scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions. Golden State has been even more effective and efficient in the playoffs.

We know all about the exploits of the Splash Brothers and the always dangerous Kevin Durant, but the Warrior's most valuable player through the first eight games they have played this postseason may very well be Draymond Green.

Green is playing at an incredibly high level in these playoffs. He is averaging 14.9 points (on 50.0 percent shooting), 9.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.6 treys (on 51.2 percent shooting), 2.0 steals and 2.6 blocks per game.

To help put those numbers in context, consider this: During these 2017 playoffs, Green is currently averaging more rebounds than LeBron James and Kevin Love, more assists than Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas, more blocks than Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela, more 3-pointers than Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson, and more steals than John Wall and James Harden.

Green has a chance to become the first player in NBA history to average at least 14 points, nine boards, seven dimes and two blocks per game over the course of an entire postseason.

Stephen Curry, as expected, has been wonderful as well. He’s averaging 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 triples.

Even though they have swept through the first two rounds, Golden State hasn’t gotten the offensive production we would expect from Klay Thompson. He is averaging 16.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, while shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 36.2 percent from downtown. The Warriors have not yet needed Klay to get hot, as they made easy work of the Blazers (playing without a healthy Jusuf Nurkic) in round one and a Utah team (playing two games without starting point guard George Hill) in round two. Eventually, Thompson will catch fire, which is worrisome for Coach Pop and company.

Another cause for concern in San Antonio is that it isn’t just Golden State’s record-setting offense that is humming right now. The Warriors defense has also been incredible. They have posted a Defensive Efficiency rating of 96.9 in the postseason. No other team is below 100.

The Spurs certainly have their work cut out for them, but if we’ve learned anything over these last two decades, it’s that we should be cautious about counting out Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

Here’s the full schedule for the series:
Game 1 - Sun. May 14, San Antonio at Golden State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 - Tue. May 16, San Antonio at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 3 - Sat. May 20, Golden State at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4 - Mon. May 22, Golden State at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 5 - * Wed. May 24, San Antonio at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 6 - * Fri. May 26, Golden State at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 7 - * Sun May 28, San Antonio at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Also, be sure to check out Mike Gallagher’s in-depth preview of the entire series.

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