Key Advantages San Antonio Spurs Have over Golden State Warriors
Now, the Spurs will face the Golden State Warriors in the second round, and if the first game was any indication of how the series will play out, it will be extremely close.
The Spurs struck first, fighting back from an 18-point deficit to steal the win in double overtime. As the superior squad, the Spurs' advantages over their seventh-seeded opponent should ensure that they also get the last laugh.
Momentum is often extremely underrated, and at the same time, completely overrated.
The Warriors had tons of momentum going into the final quarter of action Monday night and their finish was certainly less than stellar.
Still, the Spurs can't help but smile after their Hollywood double-overtime finish, while the surprising loss will serve as an emotional impediment for Golden State—one that will be difficult to overcome.
San Antonio's play was sub-par throughout the first 40 minutes, and yet, they remained within comeback distance despite Golden State's seemingly flawless execution.
The Spurs took advantage of the Warriors' inability to put them away, finishing strong and miraculously fighting back to take Game 1 for themselves.
After that, no deficit will seem too large, and the Warriors' confidence will be forever tainted.
Whether it be overrated or underrated, the momentum meter is favoring San Antonio to start the series.
No 37-year-old should be able to do the things that Tim Duncan has been able to do.
And yet, despite his age, the Spurs' future Hall of Famer has found a way.
Expectations weren't too high for the veteran power forward entering the season, though Duncan scoffed at the idea of a decline.
Averaging over 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds, Duncan's resurgent regular season will go down as one of his best ever—and he has shown no intentions of letting it slow down in the playoffs.
As the best big man in the series—better yet, the best big man in the playoffs—Duncan's play could potentially dictate whether or not the Spurs finish on top.
Without David Lee, the Warriors lack the proper talent in the post to counter Duncan's play, and while Andrew Bogut can excel on occasion, the team simply lacks the proper assets necessary to keep up with Duncan, Tiago Splitter and the rest of the Spurs big men.
He's enjoying one of his best years to date and is a major hazard to any opposing squad—especially one that isn't at full strength.
The Warriors attack revolves around one man and one man alone: Stephen Curry.
Sure, they have plenty of talented role players, but it is visible that the league's newest superstar is the team's leading man—and has the potential to erupt at any given moment.
That is, unless one of the league's top perimeter defenders is guarding him.
Following his 22-point third quarter outburst, the Spurs made a defensive switch, giving sophomore Kawhi Leonard the duty of stopping the league's top shooter.
Gregg Popovich admitted that stopping Stephen Curry is easier said than done, and he'll still be able to score even with a pesky defender like Leonard guarding him.
But can he score 22 points in one quarter against the San Diego State product? Highly unlikely. Curry's production declined once the team made the defensive switch, and one would expect that Popovich will roll with the defensive matchup whenever he has the chance.
Golden State certainly has plenty of talent, but the Spurs have the defensive tools to ensure that nothing gets out of hand.
After Monday night's epic conclusion, Charles Barkley wasn't the only one screaming Manu Ginobili's name.
The veteran shooting guard came through in the closing seconds, as he has done so many time before.
Even in the latter stages of his career, Ginobili is still reliable in the clutch, capable of singlehandedly taking over a game, and a dependable distributor when others are in need of assistance.
Oh yeah—he also comes off the bench.
Assuming the role that has characterized him over the course of his career, Ginobili's presence as the sixth man gives the Spurs an advantage over any opposing squad. Despite being worthy of a starting spot, Ginobili has found a home in the second unit, where he has helped to build one of the strongest second units in the league.
Golden State's bench may feature the third-highest vote receiver for this year's Sixth Man of the Year award, but Ginobili's play in the first game eclipsed that of Jarrett Jack.
The rest of the Warriors bench is also inferior to the Spurs', with depth beyond the first few substitutions being a monumental issue.
The Spurs, however, can always rely on their second unit to succeed, and in a fast-paced series, having the stronger bench will be a primary factor in deciding the winner.
Often, a playoff series isn't decided by the superior talent. In many cases, it's the superior coach who will ultimately lead their team to victory.
The Spurs certainly have the talent to compete without a brilliant mastermind running the show from the sidelines, but in addition to their excess of talent, the organization can proudly boast one of the best coaches—if not the best coach—in the entire league.
Popovich isn't a fun guy to watch externally. His emotions are often difficult to unmask, and when they are visible it usually isn't pretty. However, the brilliance that goes on inside his brain is comparable to few in the basketball world.
He understands every aspect of the game, as well as his own team and the opposing one. He knows how to create a spark, how to ruin momentum and with him in charge, anything is possible.
Danny Green may have hit the game-tying three-pointer in Game 1, but it was Pop's masterful play that allowed him to get open.
Mark Jackson is an excellent coach, deserving of many Coach of the Year nominations. However, if the series ever comes down to a coach's duel, the Spurs undoubtedly have the upper hand.
The Spurs roster may be comprised of a few veterans, but luckily, the playoffs are a stage where the veterans shine.
Sure, experience alone won't win you a championship, but it certainly can help a lot.
In Golden State, the majority of the roster is in the midst of their first playoff experience, whereas the Spurs have made the playoffs for 16 years straight.
The triumvirate of veterans that have for so long claimed San Antonio their homes are back, and each is playing at an extremely high level.
Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan finished in the top 10 in MVP voting, while Manu Ginobili has established that he is still a legitimate threat throughout a series of playoff heroics.
Even the younger players—excluding rookies (and Tracy McGrady, who is experiencing his first second-round visit ever)—have been to the Western Conference finals.
The stage is big and the lights are shining bright, but while many will choke under the pressure, the Spurs have been here before and know what it takes to succeed.