This game wasn’t theirs to take until Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury that caused him to leave the game in the third quarter. Leonard’s absence sparked a 18-0 run, and a slow and steady comeback paced the way for a back-and-forth fourth quarter until Stephen Curry found his rhythm and outlasted the Spurs.
It wasn’t enough for Golden State to worry, but this was a serious wake-up call for a team that largely cruised its way through two opening-round sweeps. If Leonard is able to return in this series, the Warriors will have to earn three more wins, and that gets tougher on the road.
The Spurs’ system is what it is, and Curry himself agreed after the game that even without Leonard, it stays the same. That’s how a Dejounte Murray-Jonathon Simmons lineup was able to hold its own against a quartet of All-Stars.
The Spurs were tremendous defensively in the first half
Golden State’s offense was brutal to watch in the opening half. They scored just 42 points in the half, their fewest of the playoffs, and the Spurs turned 10 turnovers into 19 points.
The Warriors had trouble spacing the floor, and the Spurs flooded the perimeter to allow just nine first-half three-point attempts. Even 39-year-old Manu Ginobili stayed active enough to snag three steals and pull into the top 10 in that category in the playoffs for his career.
Sometimes it wasn’t even a matter of San Antonio forcing a miscue, it was the Warriors making their own mistakes. Without open shooters around the arc, Golden State was out of its element driving and kicking, and often forced what wasn’t there. That’s what San Antonio does, and the opening 24 minutes should cause concern for Warriors fans.
The Warriors still have those former MVPs though
Both Kevin Durant and Curry got off to rough starts, but were incredible in the second half. Curry appeared to be nursing a wrist injury on the sidelines, and that may have been the reason for a handful of airballs, but as a whole he shot 14-of-26 for the game to score 40 points. He also hit the dagger to put the Spurs away.
Durant remembered his length when his team needed him to score, and cruised his way through the paint with series of eurosteps and finishes around the rim. He went for 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting.
A masterful opening 24 minutes like how the Spurs played would have been too much for almost any other team to come back from even after Leonard’s injury. Golden State isn’t just any team, though. No lead ever feels large enough, and wins are never real until the clock strikes 0:00. The Durant-Curry duo got the job done in time, like they usually do.
What did Game 1 show?
All eyes will be on Leonard’s injury. With him out, it’s tough to see how the Spurs are going to compete for a full 48 minutes. If he’s healthy enough to go, this was a serious wake-up call for a Warriors team that cake-walked its way through the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.
LaMarcus Aldridge is on his game again, and Murray and Simmons were contributors with Ginobili as a real third scorer. Defensively, the Spurs locked down the Warriors better than any team has, and Leonard was well on his way to a 40-point night. This game could have gone much differently had Zaza Pachulia held his foot back from Leonard’s awkward landing.
A lot is uncertain as we await clarity on the injury. But either way, this won’t be an easy sweep for the Warriors.