The moves by the Clippers and the Thunder, at least from the outside, don’t seem to change the dynamic at the top of the Western Conference — it’s Golden State on one tier, San Antonio on the next one, then everybody else. They are the two best teams in the NBA.
And the way the Warriors thrashed the Spurs last time they met, it’s fair to wonder how big the gap is between the teams.
Manu Ginobili spoke to Argentinian paper La Nacion during the All-Star Break and said he isn’t sure how to stop the Warriors, or even if it is possible. He also notes the Spurs have until the middle of May (when the Western Conference Finals start) to figure it out. Here are his quotes, as translated by Pounding The Rock (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
I know everyone is talking about how great Golden State is and we found out about it the hard way. People wonder what it would take to stop them and it really doesn’t seem possible. Obviously Curry can’t have a good night. But the rest of the team can’t have a good night either, like they had against us and in so many other games. I don’t know if there’s a way to beat them, but for now I don’t care. I would in May or June. Beating them now only counts as one win, nothing more. They are going through a great stretch, playing truly extraordinary basketball and showing tremendous confidence and team spirit. But we’ll try to figure out how to beat them only when it’s do-or-die time.
So all you have to do is hold Stephen Curry and the rest of the team in check? Four times in seven games? Why isn’t everyone doing that?
To be clear, Ginobili isn’t saying the Spurs or DOA in a series. However, the Warriors present problems not just because their players are talented, but also because they are talented and smart. This is a high hoops IQ team. And they are versatile — not just Draymond Green but as a unit. The Warriors fell behind in a couple of series last playoffs (including the Finals), but they could adjust and adapt, and once they figured out what worked they beat their opponent over the head with it until it was over. If the opponent adjusted, then the Warriors would show off their counter move.
This year’s Golden State team is a more comfortable, smarter, more confident, and just flat-out better version of that team.
In that first Spurs/Warriors meeting, Gregg Popovich threw a lot of different looks and tried a lot of different matchups at the Warriors — it was his laboratory. He was attempting to see what worked (not much that night) and what didn’t. He’s got more games this regular season against the Warriors to test other theories, and experiment. I bet the future games are closer contests, but anything Popovich learns he’s saving for May.
Because like Ginobili, he knows that’s when it matters.
But it’s fair to say, there may not be a way to beat these Warriors this year.