Western Conference Finals preview: Can the Spurs topple the Warriors?

Western Conference Finals preview: Can the Spurs topple the Warriors?
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With the Western Conference Finals starting just a couple of hours from now, let’s take a look at how the Warriors and the Spurs fare in this matchup.

This is the Western Conference Finals we’ve been waiting for! After almost three years, we’ll now be able to find out who’ll win in a Warriors versus Spurs matchup. Can Golden State manage to run through the Spurs like they did the Blazers and the Jazz? Will Kawhi Leonard get to play meaningful minutes for San Antonio on the road? Additionally, can the Spurs manage to make this a series worth watching? Let’s check out what both these teams need to do to come out on top in this series.

Offense versus Defense

Going into this year’s Western Conference Finals, the Warriors are again the best team in the league on offense. In their first 8 games, they’ve managed to blow out their opponents by an average of 16.5 points. Of course, this is understandable considering their lineup and system. Stephen Curry has been phenomenal running the offense and more importantly, is healthy. Klay Thompson on the other hand, has been his streaky self when shooting from behind the arc. Additionally, he’s been mixing things up with cuts and drives to the basket. Aside from these two, there’s also the walking mismatch that is Kevin Durant. Unlike last year with OKC, Durant has now become a lot more efficient on offense owing to the Warriors’ system.

The days of the Spurs’ “Beautiful Game” team that was so dominant in their last title run are over. With Tim Duncan, the anchor of that team, now retired, San Antonio has moved on. Behind Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, this new Spurs team managed 60+ wins again this season. The thing is though, the team really hasn’t been that consistent. Well, at least offensively. On defense, this is one team that knows how to defend. This very same Spurs defense made short work of James Harden and the Rockets in six games. What’s even more surprising was the fact that the Rockets were favored to win against them.

Keys to winning in the Western Conference Finals

It’s imperative for the Golden State Warriors to protect their home court in the Western Conference Finals. To do so, they’ll have to constantly push the pace while also limiting their turnovers. The Rockets proved that the Achilles’ heel of this Spurs’ team is its transition defense. Harden and company made a living out of shooting threes and actually won the opener in San Antonio. If Curry can successfully push the pace early then the Spurs will have a hard time keeping up. With that said, the Warriors will need to limit their turnovers as well.

With Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Jonathon Simmons in the wings, the Spurs have the luxury of length and athleticism in guarding the Warriors’ back court. The Spurs will benefit from a slowed down pace so look for them to try to steer the game in that direction. Also expect a lot of touches for LaMarcus Aldridge on offense. San Antonio will take advantage of the fact that Durant or Draymond Green will be guarding him. With that said, also expect the team to be a little more tentative with Kawhi Leonard. His ankle is probably still balky so the Spurs might not ask much of him offensively. On defense though, he’ll have his work cut out for him by trying to contain Kevin Durant.

Warriors or Spurs?

Many pundits are rightly calling this Western Conference Finals series in favor of the Warriors. And really, with the way this Golden State team is playing right now, they are going to be hard to beat. With that said, the Spurs have been very resilient this season. Yes, their identity on offense has been to rely on Leonard’s brilliance. However, this is a team that’s as experienced and as deep as any the Warriors have come across. Like with the Spurs versus Rockets series, I still think the winner of this is one is still to be decided. I actually expect this to go the distance with both teams featuring lots of adjustments after every game.

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