The San Antonio Spurs have ripped through the NBA like a buzz saw over the past several weeks. On Thursday night, Tony Parker lifted the team to its 16th win in the last 17 games with his 10th 30+ point effort this season (31 points, seven assists) in a prime time route of the Los Angeles Clippers. Meanwhile, Steph Curry and the Warriors finally snapped an ugly six-game losing streak by knocking off the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
The rested Warriors will need all the help that can get on Friday to topple the team with the best record in the NBA. San Antonio owns Golden State in head-to-head match-ups. The Spurs have recorded 28-consecutive home wins over the Warriors -- a streak that dates back to Feb. 14, 1997 and the days of Latrell Sprewell, Chris Mullin and Joe Smith -- and they've been nearly as dominant on the road in the past several seasons. San Antonio has won 16-straight games against the Warriors overall.
Greg Popovich held Kawhi Leonard out of the game on Thursday due to left knee soreness, and he may choose to keep out other players on the second game of a back-to-back and the ninth game on the team's Rodeo Road Trip. That means time may open up for players like Stephen Jackson, who recently returned to the floor after suffering through the tragic death of his unborn child.
The Warriors have been scorched by corner threes recently, and the Spurs will present a dangerous test for the reeling Golden State defense. For more on what has plagued Golden State, check out this post in the Mercury News team blog:
the Warriors smalls have been over-helping on defense, leaving their men open on the weak side and in the corners. Thompson, Barnes and, to a lesser extent, Curry and Jack, have all been guilty of shading off their men to drop into the key against dribble penetration or interior passing. Teams have adapted to the Warriors' tactics, and are quickly swinging the ball back out to open men. The over-helping is exacerbated by the fact that the larger front line of Bogut and Lee is less capable of quickly switching to provide perimeter coverage. If Thompson or Barnes drop into the key, Lee or Bogut is not going to switch and run out to the wing's man on the perimeter. The end result is grinding defensive gears - the bigs and smalls are playing under different rotation and spacing assumptions.
It just so happens that the Spurs are one of the best teams in the league at getting (and hitting) corner threes. It should be fairly easy to see if Golden State makes any structural adjustments to their scheme on Friday.
The Warriors also made a few trades to get the team under the luxury tax line this year, and now they can actually sign a player to the prorated minimum without going back into luxury tax territory. For some thoughts on the departures of Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler, check out Golden State of Mind.
For a terrific breakdown of the Rodeo Road Trip for the Spurs, check out Pounding the Rock.
Odds (via Odds Shark): Golden State is a three-point underdog at home, and the over/under for the game is 209.5 points.
Game Time: 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Feb. 22
TV info: ESPN; KENS Ch. 5; CSN-Bay Area
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