After splitting the regular season series and pushing the Spurs in the playoffs last season, Golden State Warriors fans were anticipating to play San Antonio tough this season.
However, after yet another disappointing loss in San Antonio on Wednesday, the Warriors finished the season series 0-4 vs. the top team in the Western Conference, and Tim Duncan’s dominance over the Warriors continued.
Going into the game, everyone knew coming out with a win would be a difficult task. The Warriors were down three starters with Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, and David Lee all missing the game with various injuries, and the Spurs were riding a NBA season high 18 game win streak. The game quickly got out of hand, and although the Warriors were able to cut the lead to seven late in the third quarter, the Spurs quickly went on a 13-0 run to seal the game.
While it was hard to be too disappointed with the loss on Wednesday, the Warriors still have to be disappointed with their season series against the Spurs. They lost two times at home while the Spurs were without at least two starters, and could learn a few lessons from those games. While the Warriors struggled to put up a fight without starters, the Spurs system continued almost without a hitch.
All season, the Warriors offense has struggled without Stephen Curry on the floor. He is one of the best players in the league at creating both for himself and for others and one of the few players on this team that can do so. At first glance, the Spurs roster appears to be the same way; however, because of the elaborate offensive sets and movement based offense that the Spurs run, they are not dependent on one player.
This is evident when watching the Spurs play. While the Warriors offense often stagnates and results in isolations, the Spurs offense is own of the best in the league in both having ball and player movement. The Warriors are by far the worst team in the league regarding touches per possession, while the Spurs are one of the best.
Another thing the Warriors could learn from the Spurs is attention to detail and accountability. When the Warriors got off to a 4-0 lead to start the game off of easy baskets, Gregg Popovich immediately called a timeout with frustration. Even later in the game when the Spurs were up close to 20, when the Warriors got an easy basket off of a blown rotation, Popovich angrily called timeout and chewed out the player responsible. Popovich was overheard in the huddle telling his players, “I don’t care if we win or lose, but we gotta play the right way,” and does everything he can instill the same mindset into his players.
The Warriors, however, often go through lulls and periods with a lack of focus, allowing the other team to go on extended runs. Mark Jackson is of the philosophy that players need to be able to figure things out for themselves on the court, but sometimes takes it to the extreme. Multiple times the Warriors have blown double-digit leads or let a tie game turn into a double-digit deficit in a couple minutes because of a lack of focus, and Mark Jackson refuses to do anything about it. A little increase in accountability and attention to detail could go a long way.
Overall, there have been very few franchises, if any, that have been as successful as San Antonio in the history of sports. They have had over 50 wins every season since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997 (with the exception of the 1998-99 lockout shortened season), and have racked up four championships since then. Gregg Popovich is a world-class coach and is without a doubt the best in the league.
However, the Warriors could take away some lessons from them and they are something they should strive to be.