Admittedly, I underestimated Stephen Curry in the Denver series. I also overestimated the Nuggets. But I picked Denver in six mostly because I figured Curry could get 30 points and the Warriors still lose. It’s happened before.
What I didn’t account for was the impact stars make in playoffs series, good and bad. Their ability to change games, seize momentum, do the prolific, it matters so much more in the postseason. It’s not that Curry can score, it’s that he impacts nearly every single aspect of the game: how the opposing defense responds, the amount of pressure on the opposing offense to score, the confidence of the supporting cast, the looks they get, the adrenaline and feel good that helps on the defensive end, the momentum they create.
That’s what stars do in the playoffs. And Denver didn’t have that.
Such is factored into my prediction for this series: Spurs in 7.
My first impulse was to say San Antonio in five games. But I can’t shake the feeling the Warriors will win one in San Antonio. Why? Because that’s the type of thing stars pull off. And if the Warriors win one in San Antonio, this isn’t the route many are expecting. In the first meeting here, on Jan. 18, the Warriors trailed by 4 inside of three minutes – without Curry (Spurs didn’t have Manu Ginobili). In the second matchup at San Antonio, March 20, Golden State trailed by 4 inside of four minutes left. So both games were close. It’s not like this Warriors’ team can’t win in San Antonio.
Golden State is 2-0 against San Antonio in Oakland. Andrew Bogut didn’t play in either game, and Oracle wasn’t the ridiculously raucous arena it has been for the playoffs. Still, San Antonio is good enough to get one in Oracle. Especially if the Warriors steal one of the first two in San Antonio and put the Spurs in must-win mode. But will their role players be as good in such an environment?
Even if the Warriors lose the first two in San Antonio, I can certainly see the Warriors going 2-0 at Oracle and heading back to San Antonio for a pivotal Game 5.
Another reason I think this series will be close: Manu Ginobili is not the same Ginobili. He’s good enough to torch the Warriors for a big game. But over a seven-game series, his injuries and age might get the best of him. I certainly see the Warriors being able to manage him. If so, who’s the third scorer for the Spurs. It could be one of five people. But if the Warriors stay home, not fall into trapping and doubling so much, those extra guys can be held in check. After Ginobili, they’re relying on Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gary Neal for offense. So if Bogut can guard Tim Duncan and keep the Warriors’ defense honest, and Klay Thompson can hold his own against Tony Parker, the Warriors are not in bad position.
Here is an in-depth look at the match-ups: