The Spurs got to find out what it’s like to be one of the other 28 teams in the NBA for a night.
San Antonio and its league-best defense had no answers for Stephen Curry, who scored 37 points and abused both Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills with highlight-reel moves. The Warriors gambling defense forced Spurs turnovers on nearly one in four trips down the court (22.2 percent of Spurs possessions), which let the Warriors get out and play the game at their pace (103 possessions). As the other 28 teams could have told the Spurs, let the Warriors run and they put up points in waves, before a team can set their defense. The Warriors relentless pace overwhelmed the Spurs and turned the most anticipated game of the season into a blowout.
The Warriors dismantled the Spurs 120-90. What had been billed as a showdown between the two best teams in the NBA into another Golden State tour de force.
Manu Ginobili put it well (via Jabari Young of the Express-News): Right now the Warriors are the better team.
The Spurs vaunted defense — clear and away the best in the NBA this season — was undone in part by a sloppy offense. San Antonio turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter and 25 times for the game — 15 of those on Golden State steals, live ball turnovers that allow the Warriors to get out and run.
Five of those steals were by Curry, who was leading the relentless assault and had 15 first-quarter points as Golden State shot 55 percent in that first frame. Even when Golden State put their best defender — reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard — on Curry it didn’t matter.
It also didn’t matter when the Warriors did defend Curry well and get a hand in his face — Curry hit 7-of-12 contested shots (according to the NBA.com Sports VU camera data).
But it wasn’t just Curry. Klay Thompson both got loose and made some smart passes, and the Warriors posted up 6’7″ point guard Shaun Livingston on both Tony Parker and Patty Mills when they tried to defend him (Livingston had 13 points on the night). The Warriors killed the Spurs on back-door cuts. Golden State gave the Spurs a lot to think about.
The Spurs were without Tim Duncan, but he would not have changed the outcome. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 16 points.
The outcome of this game doesn’t impact a potential playoff meeting between these teams, or even the next three regular season meetings these teams have before the playoffs even start. But it did show that the Warriors have another gear that the Spurs (and Cavaliers, as evidenced by a game last week) can’t match. At least not yet. But anyone who counts the Spurs out does so at their own risk.