Down 2-0 and with Kawhi Leonard still listed as questionable, the San Antonio Spurs will need a miracle as their Western Conference Finals against Golden State Warriors heads to AT&T Center for Game 3 (9pm ET, Saturday on ESPN).
Winning the Western Conference Finals was never going to be an easy task for the Spurs, the second best team in the NBA. That’s because they had to face the NBA’s best team in the Warriors, a team that was an undefeated 8-0 in the playoffs prior to this series.
That task got even harder when veteran Tony Parker, who had been playing his best postseason basketball in some time, got injured in the Western Conference semifinals. After that, it became nearly impossible when all-star scorer Kawhi Leonard reinjured his ankle during the third quarter of Golden State’s comeback victory in Game 1.
The loss itself was deflating for the Spurs as they led by 25 points as late as that third quarter but were hopelessly outscored, 58-33, while Leonard was on the bench. Bigger than the loss of the game was the loss of Leonard himself and that showed in Game 2.
Golden State led buzzer to buzzer, outscoring the Spurs in each quarter, and leading by 17 after one and 28 at the half. The first quarter score of 33-16 almost mirrored that of Game 1, except that time it was San Antonio on the right side of the 30-16 mark. Simply put, any momentum the Spurs may have had along with any chance they may have had to win the series, seemed to disappear the second Leonard limped off the court in Game 1.
Without Leonard and without Parker, the Spurs suffered a 36 point loss, their second worst postseason defeat under head coach Gregg Popovich, who took over the team in 1996.
The series heads back to San Antonio for the next two games but one has to wonder if it’s too late for the Spurs to get back in this series given the uphill climb they are facing. This goes doubly so if Leonard doesn’t play again and right now his status is up in the air. If Leonard doesn’t play, his production is going to need to be found elsewhere. San Antonio needs help but the question becomes, without Leonard and Parker, where are they going to get it from?
The answer that Popovich would like to tell you is LaMarcus Aldridge, who had just an abysmal Game 2 after leading his team in scoring with 28 points in Game 1.
Aldridge needs to return to his Game 1 play, which really is indicative of his postseason as a whole. Aldridge averaged just under 15 points in San Antonio’s first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies and upped that to just under 19 in the second round series against the Houston Rockets. In fact, prior to the debacle of Game 2 where Aldridge had a plus/minus of -20 during his 26 minutes on the floor and scored just eight points on 4-of-11 shooting, he had only one other postseason dud, in Game 1 against the Rockets. Other than that, Aldridge had scored in double figures in each game, including topping the 25 point mark in what had been three of his last five.
Aldridge and Leonard were the dynamic duo but now the weight of the Spurs’ success almost falls squarely on the 10-year veteran’s shoulders. He will need to play a much better Game 3 if San Antonio even hopes to have a chance to grab a game at home and get back in this series. That holds true even if a hobbled Leonard does return at any point this series.
To be fair however, Aldridge wasn’t the only one who seemed to come up small when the Spurs needed him the most. Minus Jonathon Simmons, who got the start for Leonard and scored 22 points, shooting over 47 percent from the floor, San Antonio’s starters combined for just 25 points. To put that in context, that’s four guys who Golden State’s Stephen Curry outscored by himself as he accounted for 29 of his team’s points.
The worst part for the Spurs is Curry was about the only one on Golden State who played to his level as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for just 27 points themselves. But the Warriors, with one of the deepest lineups in modern history, got their production elsewhere. In total, seven Warriors topped the double digit scoring mark, three of whom did it in limited minutes off of the bench.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs Betting Picks & Predictions
The NBA is one of those sports where home field, or in this case home court advantage, usually makes a big difference. It’s also one where you’re prone to see near perfect records at home, such as the Spurs have in the postseason. San Antonio has dropped just one game at AT&T Center this year and it came in the second round series opener. Ordinarily, this would be a good stat to be mindful of but the thing is, Golden State is perfect at home and on the road. They are an undefeated 10-0 in the postseason. Basically this means you can throw out any home or away spreads since when it comes to the Warriors, it doesn’t matter.
Don’t believe it? Just consult the top sportsbooks’ odds, which under the auspices of Leonard’s questionable status, list the Warriors as 6 to 6.5 point road favorites. It’s a much less lopsided spread than the first two games, both of which listed Golden State as 10 or more point favorites when they were the home team.
As this preview has mentioned, Leonard is listed as questionable and as far as a betting perspective, that might be the worst word a potential bettor could hear. Questionable is non-committal so all we can go by is what we know and that is that Leonard re-aggravated an ankle injury, has had about a week to heal it, and didn’t practice on Thursday. In this case, even if he does play it’s almost certain he won’t be 100 percent.
- Assuming Leonard’s status is what it is, my prediction is to take the Warriors to get another relatively easy victory in San Antonio as they cover the spread. The best option is Golden State -6pts @ -110 odds with 5Dimes or BetOnline.
- As for the total points, it is set at the conservative range of 212pts to 213pts. Given both games so far have hit this over, take Game 3 to follow suit. The pick is to go over 212pts @ -115 with BetOnline.
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.