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Spurs – No Kawhi, Big Problem?

Updated: .May 16, 2017

By Charles Jay

Figuring out how the San Antonio Spurs are going to go about things in Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals is something of a journey into the unknown. But the thing about unknowns is that the team employing the strategy apparently knows exactly what it wants to do, while the opposition doesn’t. That may be one thing the Spurs could have in their favor as they take the floor at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, for the 9:05 PM ET start. Remember that at America’s Bookie, customers have the opportunity to use two different “Live Betting” options at their disposal in order to stay involved with the action after it begins.

Of course, if you followed Game 1 at all, you know the story – the Spurs were sailing along with a 78-55 lead in the second half, and then Kawhi Leonard had to leave the game with an ankle injury. He had injured that ankle in the previous series against Houston, and unfortunately it kept him out of Game 6, which San Antonio easily.

This time, however, there was no happy ending. Leonard’s absence created chaos in the Spurs’ rotation, and Golden State immediately went on am 18-0 run. They eventually whittled the lead down to nothing, and in the end, Steph Curry, who had scored 19 of his 40 points in the third quarter, made a clutch shot to give the Warriors a 113-111 victory.

In the aftermath, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, in the process of admitting, more or less, that his team fell apart after losing Kawhi, and that his best player was going to be unavailable for Game 2, inferred that the “close-out” move that Golden State center Zaza Pachulia used on Leonard, where he stepped on his foot, was dirty, and that Pachulia had a “history” of this kind of thing. But it is time to go back to the drawing board, and the Spurs have to find some outlets other than LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 28 points in the Sunday contest.

In the NBA playoff odds that have been posted on this game, the Warriors are substantial favorites:

Golden State Warriors -13
San Antonio Spurs +13

Over 211 points -110
Under 211 points -110

Aldridge is a viable guy to go to on the inside, especially if the Warriors have the smaller lineup in the game. But if Golden State, which was #2 in Defensive Rating in the league this season, wants to double-team Aldridge, somebody has to be able to step up. Remember that Tony Parker is out with a torn quadriceps. Leonard was a two-way threat; he had 26 points in 24 minutes on Sunday, with eleven of San Antonio’s 28 free throw attempts and a +21 on the plus/minus, which was the highest figure in the game. He is also arguably the best defender in the league, so the Spurs will feel it.

Popovich usually keeps things mysterious, so we don’t know whether he is going to afford some more minutes to the likes of Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson, who didn’t perform too badly, all things considered, during crunch time. The Spurs played at a comfortable pace, for the most part (94.9), but again, without Leonard, that defensive dynamic changes. The Warriors got 74 points out of the Curry-Kevin Durant combo, but the rest of the team was not all that sharp.

Look – for what it’s worth, the Spurs came out with a lot of fire, particularly on defense, as they were missing Kawhi in Game 6 against Houston, and so we know that they can put out an effort. And the element of surprise had to be a part of that 61-42 halftime lead against the Rockets. Can they cross up the Dubs, just for a little while? That may be their only chance – to establish some kind of tone and then some way hold on to the lead this time. We’ll move with the first quarter proposition, taking the Spurs with five points in the opening stanza, as the Charles Jay / America’s Bookie Challenge continues on Tuesday night.

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