Deep breaths everybody, all is not lost.
After putting their fans through the sports equivalent of a Taylor Swift song (“I Knew You Were Trouble” references are cool, right? There a lot of parallels between that song and this season. No? Ok, no), the Golden State Warriors have strung together back-to-back wins on the road, giving the team some much needed momentum going into San Antonio to face a Spurs squad that has long been a Tim Duncan-sized burr in Golden State’s metaphorical saddle.
In 52 career games against the Warriors, Tim Duncan has averaged 20.8 points and 11.5 rebounds on .522 shooting, according to basketball-reference.com, slightly above his career line of 20.1 pts/11.2 rbds/.507 FG%. Of course, the bulk of that production has come against Golden State teams that lacked anything resembling an inside presence – fuzzy memories of a young Adonal Foyle notwithstanding.
Duncan’s per game production has slowed in recent seasons, but those numbers mask his resurgence as one of the most consistently effective forwards in the league. Spurs head coach Greg Popovich – smartly – limits the Big Fundamental’s regular season minutes, saving the 14-time All Star for the Spurs annual trip to the playoffs. The added rest has actually made Duncan more productive on a per-36 minutes basis, where he’s averaging close to his career highs in points and assists.
Fortunately, the Warriors now have an effective post counter to Duncan in Andrew Bogut, who is finally playing consistent minutes after months of limited production. Bogut has demonstrated an ability to match-up well against Duncan in the past. During the 2010-2011 season – the Australian’s last semi-consistent stretch in Milwaukee – the Bucks held Duncan to 16.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes with Bogut on the floor, according to NBA advanced statistics.
While surrendering a double-double over 36 minutes is by no means ideal, holding Duncan to that level of production would absolutely help the Warriors top a Spurs squad that is already short perennial MVP candidate Tony Parker, who has been sidelined sidelined with an ankle injury since early March.
The absence of Parker poses an interesting opportunity for Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, writes Spurs Nation staff writer Jeff McDonald. The Spurs have surrendered more than 100 points in three of their last five games, and on nights where Curry is feeling his shot he has proven to be damn near impossible to stop.
As the Spurs have struggled, Curry has gone on a tear. In the Warriors’ last nine games, the former Davidson standout has averaged 22.6 points on .452 shooting from beyond the arc, according to basketball-reference.com. During that same period, Klay Thompson has also played with at a high level consistently, averaging 17.9 points on .483 three point shooting.
If both guards come to play, and Bogut can body Duncan, the Warriors have a fighting chance at snapping a 28 game losing streak in San Antonio.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (39-30) vs. San Antonio Spurs (51-16)
WHERE: AT&T Center, San Antonio
WHEN: 5:30 pm Pacific, CSN Bay Area
AT STAKE: As always, a better berth in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings. With Los Angeles, Houston and Utah on their heels, the Warriors could use another road win.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Stephen Curry. The Warriors point guard has been on fire, minus an extremely poor performance against the Chicago Bulls. And Lord knows, he has a history of performing well in March.
PREDICTION: I know this is painfully dumb of me, but my heart’s saying Warriors over Spurs 99-93.