The long-awaited Western Conference Finals started last night, and it was a great game. The Spurs came out fighting, like they have been for the majority of the playoffs, with tough battles against Memphis and even tougher battles in Houston preparing them for the biggest test of all – Golden State. The NBA’s super team came out looking quite sluggish to begin with, but that’s to be expected considering how easy they’ve had it in the West so far, and their week long break was still in their systems. But Game 1 was truly one of the greatest games to start a Conference Finals, so let’s get into it.
The Spurs had a great start to Game 1, going up big against the Warriors in the first half, gaining a huge 25 point lead, shocking every NBA fan lucky enough to watching this incredible sight. Golden State, like I said, came out looking sluggish after walking their way to the Conference Finals, and were perhaps taken aback by a San Antonio squad who were prepared to fight until the final buzzer. The Warriors were doing everything wrong, turning the ball over, missing open shots, Steph Curry airballed a three pointer to end the second quarter. They just couldn’t find the answer to getting past the #1 defensive team in the NBA, led, of course, by Kawhi Leonard, who was having his own way in the first half. Whether it was going to the lane and throwing down a mean hammer, or pulling up from the mid-range, Kawhi was doing whatever he wanted, and then stopped the Warriors from doing anything on the other end. But nothing lasts forever, and you can’t beat the Warriors for just 24 minutes, you’ve got to fight for the entire 48. The Spurs’ hopes of taking Golden State at home were destroyed when Kawhi injured that left ankle that was causing him so much discomfort against the Rockets, but continued to play, only to hurt it again a few plays later, and had to be carried off for the rest of the game. The Warriors, naturally, chose this moment to strike, and x2 MVP Stephen Curry was leading the way offensively.
Remember that Warriors team we saw last season during the regular season, when they just killed every team who came within five points of winning? The Warriors became that team again, only this time with an offensive beast in Kevin Durant. The super team’s two leading scorers, KD and Steph, took over the game and combined for a huge 74 points, and both of them shot over 50% from the field. They were pulling up from everywhere on the court, and if they missed a three, it was no problem, they just grabbed the offensive board and tried again, and rarely did they miss two in a row. You think I’m exaggerating? Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs in rebounds, and he only played 2 quarters of basketball, that’s how poor San Antonio were on the glass when they’re superstar left the court. We saw the MVP Curry, the one who pulled up from anywhere, and with such a confidence that he’d turn around before the shot hit the net. There was one play, where Steph stole the inbound, stepped back, and splashed a three, and I just thought to myself, “man, it’s been so long since we’ve seen that kind of Steph, he’s so fun to watch.” The Warriors are at their best when Steph is confident, and when KD is pulling up and shooting contested threes over LaMarcus Aldridge, there’s little more you can do than just sit there and admire these offensive freaks do their thing. It was certainly a tale of two halves in Game 1 of the WCFs, emphasised by Steph’s dramatic improvement in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
A few things to note:
- I’m confident in believing that the Spurs would have won this game by double digits, not in the 20’s, but double digits, had Kawhi Leonard not gone down on that left ankle. He has also been confirmed to be out for Game 2, so expect a similar outcome to Game 1.
- LaMarcus Aldridge needs to step up on the defensive end, if the Spurs want to have any hope of surviving this series. His offense has been consistently good over the last few games.
- Klay Thompson has had no impact on the playoffs this season, despite an average performance in Game 4 against Utah. The Warriors have one of the most devastating offenses in NBA history when he’s knocking down threes, and I don’ like to see a player like Klay go through a rough stretch, so here’s to hoping he bounces back.