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The Denver Nuggets were thought of as an NBA Finals dark horse, so it surprised many when the Warriors won four of the last five games against Denver to take the exciting series in six games.
Now, the inexperienced Warriors will take on the experienced, rested Spurs. Durability concerns have been brought up often about the aging Spurs, but it's not going to matter much in this series. San Antonio finished off the Lakers on Sunday, April 28, and it will be extremely well-rested.
Golden State looked extremely sloppy at the end of crucial games, especially Game 6. The Warriors turned the ball over a ridiculous 10 times in the fourth quarter of Game 6, and it almost cost them the game. Golden State was up 18 with about nine minutes left, so the fact that Denver cut the lead to two points with 10 seconds left was bad enough for the Warriors.
In addition, the Warriors let the Nuggets get some good three-point looks. Andre Iguodala hit some clutch threes to keep the Nuggets in the game, but Denver also missed a lot of big shots that could have propelled it to victory. The Spurs finished second in field-goal percentage (.481) and fourth in three-point percentage during the regular season, meaning they will capitalize on open looks.
And that's going to hurt the Warriors.
In addition, Tim Duncan will give the Warriors trouble, as he can definitely score and rebound down low. If the Spurs can tire Andrew Bogut, they can create an edge down low, which is key. The young Kenneth Faried absolutely dominated the glass at times against the Warriors, and if the Spurs can out-hustle Bogut, they can create a rebounding edge even with Bogut in the game.
Rebounding well is key, but getting open looks is the biggest key. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will play big roles in that for the Spurs. If Parker can create open looks for Ginobili, a whole world of scoring opportunities will come into play.
Ginobili can shoot (.372 career three-point percentage) or create scoring opportunities for Danny Green, who shot 42.9 percent from three-point range. Matt Bonner is a career 41.7 percent three-point shooter, and he can come in and knock down a clutch shot in a big situation. As long as the Spurs have open looks and hit their threes, they can win this series without much problem.
Golden State has lost 29 straight in San Antonio, and a Duncan-led team has never lost to the Warriors at home. I find it hard to believe that the Warriors will find a way to knock off the Spurs on the road, even if they did unseat a Denver team that went 38-3 at home during the regular season.
Stephen Curry, who broke a record for three-pointers in a season, will have to make a lot of his shots. The Spurs, who are led by a smart, experienced coach in Gregg Popovich, will likely throw a lot of different looks at him, and Kawhi Leonard will likely guard Curry most often. Curry has been a bit inconsistent during the playoffs, however, as he has performed poorly in three quarters and dominated one.
In other words, he is a star, but he can be contained.
Even though Curry is a star and even though the Warriors have talent, they will make a lot of mistakes. San Antonio can and will make the Warriors pay for rookie mistakes, and judging by the first round, the Warriors will make many of them. San Antonio has crucial home-court advantage and experience, and that's going to propel it back to the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Spurs in five