Can you hear that?
That clicking noise.
It’s the sound of a million sports writers pounding out a hot take about how the Warriors are not the team that we all thought they were when they picked up Kevin Durant during the off season. The Spurs 129 - 100 destruction of the Warriors superteam is sure to be the main story to come out tonight’s games.
What happens when you have to sacrifice most of your depth to land a Kevin Durant type of player, well your bench gets outscored 54-16. The Spurs got a huge boost out of Jonathon Simmons, who scored 33 points in 28 minutes looked like the best player on the court for a big chunk of the first half. He also had chase down block on Steph Curry that is sure to give the MVP LeBron James in the Finals flashbacks. Is there anything more quintessentially Spurs than having a player who has spent the last couple of years in the D-League, take over a game that had about a million stars playing in it.
People were asking how long it would take the Warriors to incorporate KD into their offense, but Golden State has bigger problems. The game plan for San Antonio was simple: get to the basket as often as possible, crash the glass off missed shots, take advantage of mismatches whenever possible and chase the Warriors off of the three point line.
The Warriors, now without Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, are a much smaller and less physical team than they were last year. They gave up 21 offensive rebounds and 50 points in the paint to the Spurs. They had no answer to the Kawhi/Aldridge pick and roll. It seemed like when they were not giving up layups, they were trying to defend Aldridge with a player at least six inches shorter than the All-Star Center. LeMarcus and Kawhi scored a combined 61 points, and looked like they have been playing with each other for a decade. The two took turns taking over the game. Kawhi had five steals, which led to some pretty great transition dunks. LeMarcus absolutely dominated his man on the block on his way to 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Kevin Durant played well in his first game with the Warriors, he scored 27 points on 11-18 shooting, while also racking up a couple of steals and blocks. He was the only other player than Curry to score over 20 points for Golden State. Steph had a couple of moments when it looked like he was going to single handedly shoot his team back into the game, but it felt like every time he started to get hot the Warriors would make a bad pass, or blow a defensive assignment and somehow the Spurs lead would get even larger.
The Spurs knew that Curry and Durant would get their points, but they did a incredible job of shutting down the rest of Golden State’s shooter. Klay Thompson only had 11 points, and never seemed to get a good rhythm going. Draymond Green had a solid game, but did not have the ball in his hands enough to really be the kind of playmaking threat that allows their death lineup to work. Outside of the two MVP’s there was not another Warrior who had a notable game.
Here's a lukewarm take, Golden State is still going to win a ton of games and probably be the end up with the best record in the league, but some of the things the Spurs exploited tonight are not going to go away with practice. This is a Warriors team that can be beat up inside, and will struggle to defend teams that have big men with a decent mid range game. Their death lineup loses a lot of its bite when Draymond Green has to extended minutes against a true center. I’m not sure that Zaza Pachulia or David West are going to do much to solidify that Warriors front line. Pachulia ended up with 2 points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes of play, and did little to deter San Antonio from getting to the rim.
San Antonio is uniquely suited to beat up this current Warriors iteration. They have talented big men and an all world defender in Leonard who can make life hell for Curry, Thompson and Durant. If nothing else, this game showed the Spurs are going to be a huge problem for the Warriors going forward. With Durant’s departure from OKC, they have one less obstacle in getting back to the Western Conference Finals. Who would have thought that San Antonio would have come out of the Durant sweepstakes a winner?
After the final buzzer Kerr and Popovich shared a laugh at center court. What else can you do after this kind of a blowout in an opening game? I doubt we’ll see the Warriors get smacked around this bad again all season, but it was fun to see this seemingly god tier team made human. No one wins or loses a title on opening night, and it’s nice to reminded that the journey matters.