Sunday afternoon’s opener to the Western Conference Finals did not go at all how the San Antonio Spurs would have liked. Not only is the team down 1-0 entering today’s second game of the series (9pm Tuesday on ESPN), but they may have lost their biggest asset. The series is firmly in the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
While Golden State emerged victorious, the game was mainly out of reach for the home team during the first two quarters. The Spurs led by 14 after one and 20 going into the half. Kawhi Leonard, who finished in the top-five of MVP voting last year and likely will again this year, continued to show off his playoff best. He had 26 points and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line, adding to his mark of 93.1 percent this postseason.
But midway through the third quarter, with just under eight minutes left, Leonard rolled his ankle while attempting a shot up against Zaza Pachulia. The play, which has been fiercely debated regarding if it was dirty or not, led to Leonard re-injuring his ankle. He’s listed as doubtful for today’s game.
The injury served as a turning point as without Leonard, the Warriors were able to begin their comeback, outscoring the Spurs in both the third and fourth quarters. Stephen Curry was masterful, leading all scorers with 40 points (26 of which came in the second half), while his co-star Kevin Durant added 34 of his own (20 of which came in the second half). The Warriors outscored the Spurs 58-33 with Leonard on the bench.
San Antonio did their best to stay in the game, but without Leonard and Tony Parker, who was injured in the last series, the Spurs lacked the depth to compete with the Warriors’ star-studded lineup. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 to lead San Antonio, Manu Ginobili had a strong 17 points off the bench and Jonathan Simmons added 12 points over a 26 minute period but Patty Mills, Pau Gasol and Danny Green didn’t do much. The team was powerless to do anything but watch their 25-point lead evaporate. With just over a minute and a half remaining, Curry sank a three to tie the game.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the way the Warriors would have liked to have gotten this series started but the box score reflects a victory and that’s the most important thing. Golden State continues to be undefeated throughout the postseason and now has a clear path to the NBA Finals.
Game 2 Preview
Without Leonard, the Spurs are most likely going to have a hard time keeping up with the Warriors at home, even if they do play as well defensively as they did in the first half of Game 1. San Antonio held their opponents to just 42 points in the half, which was Golden State’s lowest output of the postseason. Additionally, the Spurs forced 10 turnovers in that first half, which they converted into 19 points.
The Warriors also failed to get their game plan going as the Spurs flooded the perimeter, allowing Golden State just nine attempts from the three point line in the first half compared to 21 in the second half. The Warriors converted on nine of those attempts, seven more than the amount they made during the first two quarters.
This is the type of offense San Antonio runs well, with or without Leonard. It’s also a type of offense that caused the Warriors some serious trouble during the first half of Sunday’s game. This should give the Warriors some reason for concern.
However, San Antonio winning without Leonard really does feel like a tall order. The Spurs completely collapsed without him and did something no Spurs team under Gregg Popovich had ever done: They lost a playoff game that they had led by 25 or more points. This largely had to do with Golden State overwhelming their opponents thanks to Curry, Durant and the rest of the Warriors’ high-powered lineup.
If Game 1 was any indication, this series still has the potential to be the toughest test for the Warriors so far. The Spurs’ defense is a real threat and if Leonard makes his way back for Game 3, this series could make a huge turnaround just in time for it to return to San Antonio. But, as far as Game 2 goes, it doesn’t seem likely that the Spurs will pull off the upset.
Our Betting Preview’s San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors Game 2 Picks & Predictions
Golden State opened as 10 point favorites in Game 1 but the spread is even larger for Game 2 in light of Leonard’s impending absence. The Warriors are 13.5 point favorites with our top recommended US-friendly bookies, a little lopsided considering Sunday’s game was 113-111. That being said, the lack of Leonard is troubling and is something the Spurs will have to try to figure their way around. Mills will need to be a better replacement for Parker as a starter and Gasol will have to stay out of early foul trouble.
- Coming to our betting predictions and picks, it’s a steep hill to climb and one that I just don’t feel the Spurs will be able to do without their top weapon. Take the Warriors to cover the lofty margin in victory. Bet on Golden State -13.5pts @ best odds of -110 with MyBookie or Bovada.
- For the total points pick, my prediction would be to take the over 208.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, BetOnline or MyBookie.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.