The Western Conference matchup we’ve all been waiting over 2 years for is finally set but many people are already counting the San Antonio Spurs out. They overwhelmingly believe that Warriors-Cavs part 3 is on the horizon.
What if I told you, that the Spurs have all the tools to pull off a major upset here? You’d probably immediately stop reading but I’m willing to that risk anyway. As long as Pop is at the helm of the Spurs engine, there is a way.
1. They Have Hungry Players
From top to bottom. These players are out to prove all the doubters wrong. LaMarcus Aldridge is out to prove that he can win at the pro level, having never even been to the Finals. In fact, this is his first appearance in the Western Conference Finals. A feat he could never accomplish during his long tenure in Portland. The furthest he went as a Trailblazer would be the second round out. He’s battled many criticisms for how he has played for the San Antonio Spurs so far in his 2-year tenure. The belief is that he cannot win at the pro level. At 31 years of age, if Aldridge doesn’t break through to the finals or win an NBA Championship now, will it ever happen for him?
Another player that has something to prove is David Lee. It was not too long ago that David Lee was an All-Star caliber player for the Golden State Warriors and he got replaced due to the rise of Draymond Green. I’m sure that had to hurt his confidence as a player, to know that he was that replaceable. Sure, he got an NBA championship out of the deal, but he has to be feeling some type of way with how quickly the Warriors ditched him after that 2015 run. They essentially traded him for nothing, since they waived Gerald Wallace.
2. They Just Blew Out The Houston Rockets Without Two Key Players
Granted they will be without Tony Parker for the rest of the playoffs, they should get back Kawhi Leonard for Game 1. The fact that they blew out the Houston Rockets in Houston by 39 points without their best player in Kawhi Leonard is scary. The Warriors run a similar offensive style of living and dying by the three-pointer. The Spurs have excellent perimeter defenders in Leonard, Manu, Green, and Simmons. There is no reason to think that this Spurs team can’t continue to defend well against the Warriors.
They also have a good interior defense when it is on. Guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon can swat away or alter shots when the Warriors offense decides to penetrate into the lane or operate in the post. David Lee has made improvements as a defender this year as well and has always been good at corralling defensive boards to prevent second chance points.
Curry and Durant are likely going to get their points but if you can make them work for everything and limit the supporting cast. There’s a chance in Spurs country baby.
3. The Spurs Will Play Their Style
An efficient offense that values the basketball and rarely turns it over. Leading to more possessions. An offense where the ball moves around faster than an opposing defender can slide his feet. An offense where everyone can be a playmaker.
They will make strides on the defensive end too. They have a defense that committed the fewest fouls per game this season. They show discipline and do not get baited into calls. Having the best two-way player in Basketball in the form of Kawhi Leonard helps too. Assuming that he should be ready to go for this series. Basing it off his post-game reaction and the fact that he felt that he was ready to play in Game 6 of the Spurs-Rockets series the other night.
4. They Are A Resilient Team
The Spurs have shown this year that they are never out of a fight. They are capable of cutting deficits. People should expect the Warriors to put big runs together, maybe even win a game this series by 20+ points but just know that the Spurs can and will counterpunch.
During the regular season, they came back from 28 points to beat the Sacramento Kings using just their bench. Now, I know it was only the Kings but a 28 point comeback is nothing to scoff at no matter the opponent. Especially, considering that it was their bench that cut the deficit.
Last series they lost Game 1 to the Houston Rockets by a margin of 29 points and came back in Game 2 to win by 27. Ultimately ended in 6 games with the Spurs taking the series. A majority of fans and myself thought the Rockets were taking the series after that game but the Spurs quickly shut us up.
5. Popovich Is Quick At Adapting
In Round 1, Gregg Popovich coached his Spurs against a grit and grind Memphis defense that forced the Spurs to play at a much slower pace than they are used to. Most of the games rarely exceeded 90 or even 100 points. Popovich took the challenge head on and finished the Grizzlies off in 6 games. He was able to win the 50-50 balls and limit his team's fouls against a bump and bully ball type of Grizzly team. How’s that for data?
In Round 2, the pace completely changed. The Houston Rockets coached by Mike D'Antoni played a face paced transition offense. The Spurs were able to heed the call to limit the Rockets fast break points by valuing the possession of the basketball and tiring out Rockets players by making them work on the defensive end. It showed when James Harden struggled in Game 6 and in OT during Game 5. He was completely gassed out having to deal with Aldridge and Gasol in the post due to D’Antoni deploying small ball lineups.
The point I’m trying to make here is, no matter the style, Gregg' Spurs can and will adapt. Popovich has seen every type of defense and every type of offense. There is no catching him off guard. His players will play hard for him because an angry Pop is their worst nightmare.
Therefore, let’s not be too quick to count out the San Antonio Spurs. Yes, the Golden State Warriors are a super team but so was the 2013-14 Miami Heat team. We all know how that matchup turned out. As long as there is a Pop, there is a way.