As the season rolls to a close, the Golden State Warriors are getting a lot closer to finding out who their first-round opponent will be. The team wants to improve upon last season’s surprise NBA Playoffs run, but it is looking to avoid an opponent that minimizes the Dubs’ production.
Let’s take a closer look at the possible playoff road for the Warriors and see what teams best matchup against the Dubs. To do that, we will look at recent history (and even past history, if necessary) to determine the most feared opponent.
The Warriors look to be in a surprising battle to hold onto the sixth playoff spot, unless the team can catch the now-slumping Portland Trail Blazers for the fifth seed.
If the Warriors have to face any of the top four seeds, they would prefer to do it against teams that they have actually beaten this season. The Warriors split the season series versus the Clippers and went 1-2 against the Rockets (without the services of Andre Iguodala in both losses).
If the Warriors advance to the second round or start a long season-ending losing streak, they will have the opportunity of facing one of the two Western Conference powerhouses, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs.
Fans would rejoice throughout the NBA if the Warriors and Thunder meet up in a series. Both teams play a fluid style of basketball and two of the three contests have resulted in Hollywood-type endings.
The Spurs, on the other hand, have been the bane of the Warriors' existence. The Dubs have amassed an 8-51 record against the team from San Antonio in their last 59 meetings.
The Warriors have also not won a regular-season game in San Antonio since 1997.
As a result, the Spurs are the easy pick for the team that the Warriors do not want to see in the playoffs.
The Spurs put that on display in a relatively easy win without the services of both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on March 22.
Here is a look back at that particular game:
The Spurs do all the little things right, know how to space the floor and play consistent defense. It doesn’t matter who they put on the floor during the game, the players know how to execute.
It didn’t help that former Warriors, and NBA journeyman, Marco Belinelli lit up the Dubs with 15 points coming off the bench.
The Spurs are not considered a flashy or exciting team to watch, like the Warriors. They don’t have the in-game ups and downs and as a result, they don’t have to use excess energy to chase down big deficits.
The Warriors didn’t get out to a hot start in the recent contest, so they were running uphill most of the game.
Coach Mark Jackson noticed that fact but stated that he would like another chance at the Spurs, courtesy of Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.
It's a disappointing loss, but it will make us better," Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. "Hopefully, we'll see them again down the road. ... You're going to get better by playing against that team. Tonight was a learning experience. They don't just do this against us. They've done it all year long.
Back in Oakland on December 19, the Spurs won another close game, as they held off the Warriors 104-102 without Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker.
They're a team that has won championships and knows how to win," Lee said. "Regardless of who's on the floor, they have a proven system.
Coach Gregg Popovich’s proven system was on display in last season’s playoffs, when the Warriors had Game 1 all but wrapped up in Texas. The Spurs executed their game plan and started to erase a 12-point deficit with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
The end result was a wide-open Ginobili hitting the last-second three in double overtime for the decisive win. The Warriors did a good job hanging around in the series, but the Spurs were too tough in six games.
Lee, Coach Jackson and the rest of the Warriors will get one final shot at the Spurs this season, as they meet in San Antonio on April 2.
With the Spurs trying to hold on to the best conference record, this is a statement game for the Warriors. As they fight to hold on and clinch a playoff berth, their first regular-season win in San Antonio since 1997 could give the Dubs the added confidence going into the playoffs.
If They Meet
If the teams face each other in the playoffs, the Warriors will have to play without any errors and hold on to the ball. The team also needs to get out to a hot start instead of having to chase again.
In the three games played this season, the Spurs have won the battle of turnovers and all of the decisions. The Warriors have put streaks together in those games, but they have lacked the consistency.
The Warriors will need to use the defensive skills of Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to stop the flow of the Spurs’ offense. The Warriors will also need to go hunting for the endangered Black Falcon, Harrison Barnes.
Barnes played significant minutes with success in last season’s playoff matchup. He was the player that was most responsible for the Warriors’ overtime win at home in Game 4.
Finally, Curry will need to bring his hot shooting and limit the turnovers. If he can run the pick-and-roll with Andrew Bogut and David Lee and distribute the ball effectively, the team will remain competitive.
The biggest problem is that the Spurs have the experience, the system and the coaching expertise. The Warriors will submit a legitimate challenge, but they won’t be able to win, unless they can eliminate the unforced errors and mental mistakes.