March Madness was in full throttle last week, but the biggest game wasn’t in the college ranks. Saturday featured a clash of the titans of the National Basketball Association, the 63-7 Golden State Warriors visiting the 59-11 San Antonio Spurs. The two teams are enjoying historic runs, each undefeated at home and on pace to finish in the 70 win range. One team had to fall and after the first contest, a 120-90 dismantling by Golden State, it looked like the Warriors were the best in the West. Instead, the Spurs shut down MVP favorite Stephen Curry and limited the Warriors, who average 115 points per game and dropped 130 on Dallas the night before, to a season-low 79 points.
The contest between the Warriors and Spurs pitted the best defense (San Antonio) against the best offense (Golden State). The best defense won, as Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson were ice-cold all game, finishing a combined 2 for 19 from behind the arc. The Spurs were cruising, with Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 14 rebounds) and offseason acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points, 13 rebounds) slicing apart the Golden State defense. Tim Duncan didn’t start at center for one of the first times in his 19 seasons and his replacement in the lineup, Boris Diaw, notched 14 points and 8 rebounds. For the first time all season, the Warriors looked like a college team and the Spurs the real pros.
With the Warriors and Spurs almost definitely locking up the top two seeds in the Western Conference playoffs, a best-of-seven battle with a Finals appearance on the line is likely. If the regular season series, which will include two more games, is any indication, home-court advantage will be huge.
Though the Warriors could be the best NBA team in history and break the regular season record of 72 wins, San Antonio is built to beat the Dubs. Frontcourt is not an issue if LaMarcus Aldridge continues to excel and Kawhi Leonard is the superstar that will carry the Spurs. With Golden State’s weakness being their lack of size, the small ball lineups that the Warriors have utilized could meet their match.
Beating the Warriors in four games in a seven game stretch seems impossible, but the Spurs have the formula. Pound the ball inside on offense and close out and contest every shot on defense. The Spurs can do both, and that will make them the only challenger to Golden State’s reign.