Suggesting adjustments for Game 2 is seemingly an impossible task now that Kawhi Leonard’s sprained ankle will likely force him to miss Tuesday’s pivotal match up.
Though the San Antonio Spurs have survived their fair share of games without Leonard during the regular season, Golden State’s ability to effectively erase a 25-point deficit in mere minutes after Leonard’s Game 1 injury has the Spurs primed to lose control of this series before even stepping on their home floor.
With Popovich fostering a gameplan centered around a higher power, here is what San Antonio can do to survive Golden State’s star-studded roster without their MVP and potentially steal homecourt advantage.
CRASH THE BOARDS
One of the few exploitable weaknesses in Golden State’s small ball lineup is rebounding. Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge dealt with their fair share of foul trouble in Game 1, limiting the options available to Head Coach Gregg Popovich.
In need of athleticism and scoring, two things San Antonio seriously lacks without Leonard, Popovich let his rotations get out of whack as the Warriors went on an 18-0 run in three minutes. From Kyle Anderson to Dejounte Murray, no one could stop the bleeding offensively, while allowing Golden State numerous opportunities to grab rebounds and control every aspect of the game.
From the time Leonard went down to the final whistle, Steph Curry and Shaun Livingston combined for five offensive rebounds for Golden State, while San Antonio had six as a team. Overall, the Warriors nearly doubled San Antonio’s rebounding totals for the remainder of the game as the Spurs saw their offense sputter to a screeching halt while allowing their inability to clean the glass turn into second chance points (12) and fast break points (20) for the Warriors.
Leonard maintains the team’s fourth best rebounding percentage in these playoffs, behind bigs Aldridge, Gasol, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon. Unless Dedmon has developed the ability to stretch the floor, he’s not San Antonio’s best solution to this problem no matter how much fans clamor for it.
Seventeen turnovers on the road weren’t as big of an issue as they would be on a normal night, strictly because Golden State committed 19 of their own. San Antonio won the points off turnovers battle 31-28, but don’t expect the Warriors to cough up the ball in that fashion two games in a row.
Golden State had eight games this season where they committed 19 or more turnovers in a contest, going 4-4 in those games. Out of those eight, seven came before the calendar flipped to March. Since then, the only other time the Warriors committed 19+ turnovers: April 12th in a 109-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, where a Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala-less Warriors squad committed 20 turnovers.
DUAL POINT GUARDS v.2.0
Though their defensive rating of 202.2 in three minutes during Game 1 is worrisome, the duo of Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray had an offensive rating 120.0, in spite of a 1-for-8 shooting performance by Mills.
Murray may have his confidence shaken last round against an aggressive defender like Patrick Beverley, but the Warriors gave Murray plenty of space to take Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston off the dribble on several occasions. It’s doubtful that Mills has another poor outing as he did in Game 1, but if so, maybe Murray’s ability to penetrate can draw Thompson away from harassing Mills while on the floor together.
In the playoffs, the 2-man lineup of Mills and Murray have shared the court together for 12 minutes, producing a net rating of +39.7, while maintaining an assist ratio of 21.7. That number is right on par with the Parker-Mills duo that had an assist ratio of 24.3, though their 2-man lineup had an obscenely potent offensive and net rating.
As evident by his first quarter cameo in Game 1, Murray’s baptism by fire is far from over.