By Griffin Finch
This series pitted what would likely be the two best teams in the league when fully loaded against each other. Unfortunately for fans of basketball and each respective franchise both had injuries to key players for large stretches of the regular season. In the case of San Antonio, they only had their two way superstar Kawhi Leonard for nine games the entire season. For Golden State, all four of their all stars had suffered injuries. At one point all of them were out at the same time. Basketball fans were robbed of what could have been a Conference Finals for the ages, and instead most of Golden State’s players came back healthy while Kawhi remained out for the Spurs. As a result we got a lopsided five game series in which the Warriors were the better team throughout.
The San Antonio Spurs probably would of at least made the conference semi-finals if they hadn’t gone up against the Warriors or Rockets. As we saw in the Utah versus OKC and the Pelicans-Blazers series, this year in the West despite the overall quality of all the playoff teams it was really Houston, Golden State and everyone else. Seeds three through eight were separated by only two games. To me it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that Gregg Popovich could of found a way to beat one of the lesser teams, but the reigning champions were just to much for superb coaching to overcome. Ever since LaMarcus Aldridge came to his hometown he has not been the same player. These days Aldridge is a really good secondary star for a team, but if he is your best player he can only take you so far. Don’t get me wrong he performed extremely well in the series averaging 23 points and 9 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field. He just didn’t have the help required to make any noise this postseason. That’s not to say that the other Spurs did not play well, but outside of Rudy Gay who has been a shell of himself since his Memphis and Toronto days everyone else on the Spurs roster is an aging player out of his prime or a young player who isn’t developed enough to contribute to meaningful playoff wins.
Golden State heading into the playoffs had injuries to Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. However Klay and KD came back just in time to dispatch the Spurs in five games. Even without the greatest shooter to ever live, the collection of talent in the bay area overwhelmed San Antonio. The lack of players that can get their own shot for the Spurs allowed Steve Kerr to fixate on Aldridge defensively and dare someone else to beat them. On offense, nobody could do anything to slow down Kevin Durant and when they doubled him it was as simple as kicking it out to any one of the myriad of sharpshooters surrounding the Warriors star. This series came down to the health of star players. Even though if both teams were fully healthy the Warriors most likely would have still won, if Kawhi was healthy and Curry was not I can easily see a world in which the Warriors get bounced in the first round.
San Antonio has some things they need to figure out this summer. Chiefly among them is what does Kawhi Leonard’s future with the organization entail. Will he come back ready to play and contribute next season? Or will the Spurs decide that the relationship is beyond repair and trade him away. Golden State moves on to play the Pelicans. The ball movement the Warriors bring to the table will present a different challenge that the Pelicans may have trouble defending. The Warriors do not want to lose in the second round as they look to repeat as champions for the first time in their historic four year run. Of course, having Steph back will be a great touch.