Five Keys for Warriors to Beat Spurs in Five Games (or Less)

OAKLAND -- The Warriors are expected to nudge the Spurs into the summer after four or four games, and maybe they will. Even without Stephen Curry, the defending champs are the appreciably superior team.

There are factors in play, though, and they will dictate both the closeness and length of this first-round Western Conference series.

Here are five keys, in no particular order, to winning in five, or maybe even four.


The Warriors have four All-Stars, one of which is most likely to set the tone for a game or even a series. They get their bite from Draymond Green, and when he's raging his teammates are compelled to follow.

Green's impact this season has not been as dramatic as last year or the year before. He has had terrific games, to be sure, but he has laid more eggs this season than at any time since Steve Kerr arrived before the 2014-15 season.

His 3-point shooting percentage is down, but his free-throw percentage is the highest. Rebounds are slightly down, while assists are slightly up. The numbers matter, but Green's value is best measured by his impact.

"He gets himself to a point where he's got to create that adversary. I don't think many people gave him a chance this year," David West says. "He proved a lot of people wrong last year and I don't think anybody gave him that bait he was looking for. He tried it with the refs, but it's a different deal when you're dealing with players as opposed (to refs) and he needs that."

After his Defensive Player of the Year honor, opponents were much more careful about testing Green. He also has been battling physical ailments and been hurt by the frequent absence of Curry, who can ignite Green's inner flame.

He'll have to do it for himself for a while longer, which he can. West thinks he will.

"The stakes are higher," he says. "Things will be a little bit testier."


Ron Adams, the team's defensive coordinator, has spent most of the season in a displeased state. He wants a stop every time. His exasperation has peaked lately, though, as the Warriors over the final five weeks ranked 17th in defensive rating.

Adams craves a defensive gem.

This starts with Green, who will see plenty of big LaMarcus Aldridge, but it must be a team-wide commitment.

Andre Iguodala has to be available, active and bouncy. He'll see his share of Rudy Gay, who finished strong. Kevin Durant, whose defense declined noticeably in the second half of the season, has to recall some of his earlier work, when he was swatting shots and digging in.

Mostly, though, the Warriors have to get back to their defensive principles. They are a chatty team and a switching team, and those elements were sloppy as they skidded to 7-10 record over the final 17 games.

"This league is about defense, especially in the playoffs," coach Steve Kerr says. "Our defense has not been good over the last month. I'm very confident it will be much better in this series."

San Antonio does not have a high-octane offense (17th in offensive rating, 27th in scoring, 29th in pace), so this is a tremendous opportunity for the Warriors to diagnose their issues and fix the holes.


Klay Thompson's scoring matters. In this series, though, there are other components that may matter more, such as patience and a willingness to take what is given, which may not be much.

After Thompson cooked Danny Green in two games earlier this season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich turned to the friskier Dejounte Murray, who did a much better job of shadowing Klay. Murray will get the job again.

‘Popovich is going to demand his guards run Thompson off the three-point arc, and he'll call a timeout after even one open look. He realizes Thompson's natural inclination is to launch, so he'll want his guys to make him uncomfortable and force him into quick, contested shots.

Thompson has to resist. He can't get frustrated and bite on this trick. He has to be aware of open teammates, who should be cutting every chance they get. He is an underrated passer, mostly because his shooting obscures that element of his game.

Even without Stephen Curry, the Warriors neither need nor expect Nuclear Klay, though that could win them a game.


Turnovers generally have been down. Only once has Quinn Cook, subbing for Curry, committed more than three turnovers and that was against the Spurs, when none of the All-Stars was available. The Warriors were starved for scoring, Cook was trying to make something happen and paid the price in a 14-point loss.

The Warriors, of course, are always susceptible to giveaways, which are a by-product of their desired fast pace combined with a collective daredevil mindset on offense most embodied by Curry.

Green and Durant sometimes get caught up in it, particularly when Curry is out. Green has 13 games with at least five turnovers, and Durant has 11. Trying to stimulate the offense, each in most recent games has made several passes that can be described as asking for trouble.

They can't take those risks against San Antonio, and they know it.

"They're the Spurs. They don't beat themselves. You have to beat them. And they will allow you to beat yourself," Green says.

"So it's just about being solid, playing our game. We've got the talent. We've got the experience. We've got everything we need to win."


The Warriors suddenly are vulnerable in own their house. After losing nine home games over the previous three seasons, they lost 12 -- equaling their road total -- in 2017-18.

Moreover, half of those 12 losses came against teams that failed to make the playoffs, including twice to the Sacramento Kings. Losing to sub-mediocre teams implies complacency, as only one of the nine home losses in the previous three seasons was to a non-playoff team (the Timberwolves, April 2016).

Oracle Arena has not been the bloodthirsty dungeon it once was, back when opposing coaches and players felt the crowd and were affected. The Warriors fed off the incessant, bone-rattling noise.

That was before Warriors fans got comfortable atop the NBA. Maybe this season, with the increase in home losses and losses in general, might provoke fans to take it up a notch or three.

The Warriors might not need that throwback atmosphere, but they most certainly would welcome feeling it.

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