There is one element the experts ignored in analyzing the second-round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors: The Spurs are an old team on probably their last run with Tim Duncan and the Warriors are a young, improving team.
That difference showed clearly as the Warriors evened the playoff series with their Wednesday night win in San Antonio. As they did in the first round against Denver, the Warriors have gained the edge by winning an early game on the opposing team’s court. Now, they can win this series just by winning the games scheduled for Oracle Arena, where fans will be roaring with excitement throughout.
This Warriors team reminds me a bit of the one that brought the Bay Area its only NBA championship, the 1974-75 team.
No, that doesn’t mean I think they’ll win the championship this year — I still like the Miami Heat, with the game’s best player in LeBron James, to repeat as champions — but I think the Warriors will win this round.
Like the earlier team, of which little was expected after a 48-win season, the Warriors are a young team that seems fearless. They blew a 16-point lead in the first game, but showed no psychological damage as they roared back Wednesday.
This is a team with weapons. Stephen Curry is usually the biggest one, but when Curry had a relative off night of shooting on Wednesday — just 7-of-20 from the floor — Klay Thompson stepped up with a 29-point effort in the first half.
It wasn’t just Thompson’s shooting that was impressive, either. He also played tough defense on Tony Parker, the Spurs’ best player. Thompson helped in another way. San Antonio needs Parker to be a big scorer, but he can’t do that and still play tough defense against the Warriors’ guards. Gregg Popovich is an excellent coach, probably the best in the NBA, but he’s not a miracle man. He has no answers for the Warriors’ offense and versatility.
Mark Jackson, who finished seventh in the Coach of the Year race though the Warriors doubled their win total from last year, has done a good job of using players off the bench. Jarrett Jack is often in the game at crunch time because he doesn’t hesitate to take the tough shots, and he usually makes them. Rookie Draymond Green does a little of everything, and when the game turns rough, he can bang with anybody. After a bruising Warriors win over the Nuggets, Denver coach George Karl wondered if Green had played basketball or football in college. Carl Landry is another reserve who has helped fill the hole left by the injury to All-Star power forward David Lee.
Unlike the Warriors’ last playoff team, in 2007, which collapsed the next season when Baron Davis went down, this team is on the rise, with a front office that is making the right decisions to improve the team.
Rebounding after the Game 1 collapse showed the Warriors’ character. It also convinced the San Antonio players, who sounded almost as if they were conceding after their Wednesday loss. It wouldn’t surprise me now if the Warriors swept the next three games.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.