Quite literally the whole basketball world is picking the Warriors to beat the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. It seems preordained that Warriors-Cavs III will be the NBA Finals matchup. I’m here to tell you that won’t happen. We will either be seeing Spurs-Cavs II or, if God wants me die happy, Spurs-Wizards I. Here are the 13 Reasons Why the San Antonio Spurs will beat the Golden State Warriors.
1. Coaching Edge
Assuming Steve Kerr doesn’t come back this series, could there be a bigger disparity between the GOAT Gregg Popovich and Mike Brown? The last time they played in the playoffs, the Spurs swept the Cavaliers 4-0 in the 2007 Finals. Yes, that was a decade ago, but since then the Spurs have won another championship and Pop is still in charge. Meanwhile, Brown got fired by the Cavs, then coached the Lakers and got fired, then coached the Cavs again and was fired, and has been bouncing around as an assistant ever since. Advantage Spurs.
2. Kawhi ‘Til You Die
Most series end up coming down to who has the best player in the series. While the Warriors probably have four of the best five players, the Spurs arguably have the very best one. Kawhi Leonard averaged more points than both KD and Steph this regular season (and in the playoffs!). He also beat out Draymond Green for the Defensive Player of the Year the last two years. He shut down none other than LeBron James in the 2014 Finals en route to MVP and has shown the ability to take over games on offense. He is also a robot according to Coach Fizdale. A+ Kawhi needs to be on display this series for the Spurs to have a chance. But would you expect anything less?
Okay this one is purely speculative, but the Warriors will need to have one of their Big 4 star players go out to truly give the Spurs a chance. I’m not wishing injuries on anyone, but if KD’s leg acts up, Steph Curry twists an ankle, or if Draymond goes Full Draymond, that could really swing the series in the Spurs favor. Obviously this assumes the Spurs stay healthy and stay out of trouble. The latter is a guarantee, but San Antonio really needs Kawhi at full strength.
4. Superteam in 1st Year
Basketball history has shown us that a quote “Superteam” usually doesn’t win in their first year together. The Heat lost in 2011 to the Mavericks after the formation of the Big 3. The Lakers fell apart early in the playoffs after they acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2013. In 2004, the Lakers also lost in the Finals to the Pistons after adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton. The Bulls fell before the Finals in 1995 when MJ came back from playing baseball. Even the Cavs didn’t win it all the first year LeBron came back to the Land. It usually takes more than a season for a team to gel after adding a big time free agent, especially one that missed time late in the year like Durant.
5. Regular Season Tape
The Spurs and Warriors played three times this year. In the first game of the season, the Spurs absolutely punked the new “superteam” 129-100. The Spurs also won the second game by 23 points (Note: No one of significance played for either team). The Dubs won the third game by 12. At the least, this shows the teams were pretty evenly matched on the actual basketball court. This is obviously a small sample size, but the Spurs did have the 2nd best record in the NBA this season. They aren’t slouches.
6. No Tony Parker
While this might seem like a disadvantage for the Spurs, I actually think it’s for the best that Parker won’t be playing this series. Parker still has moments of glory, but he is past his prime. There is no way he can guard Steph Curry or Klay Thompson even if he was at full strength. Instead we get more playing time for the always scrappy Patty Mills and future Spurs assassin Dejounte Murray. At the very least, the Warriors will have to adjust to the new Spurs playing style, which may take a few games.
One of the underrated plot lines of the Warriors winning the KD Sweepstakes this offseason was the trade off that they had to get rid of their some of the best role players from the 73 win team last year. The Dubs lost guys like Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Mo Speights. Yes, you would take Kevin Durant over all of these guys in a heartbeat, but they do lack some of the depth we are used to from the Warriors. As seen in Game 6 against the Rockets, the Spurs do not lack for depth. Without ex-Finals MVPs Kawhi and TP, the Spurs extinguished the Rockets on the backs of guys like Jonathan Simmons, Dejounte Murray, David Lee, and Kyle Anderson. Not to mention, they still have this guy.
Defense wins championships, right? Well the Spurs had the #1 defense in the NBA this season. I’m sure Pop will have a few tricks up his sleeve and will not let the Warriors have open shooting practice this series. If you don’t believe me, just look at the last series, when the Spurs adjusted to the sharp shooting Rockets and only allowed them to score 92 and 75 points in the s Games 3 and 6 of the series, their two lowest outputs of the entire season. The Spurs D is no joke.
9. Pressure’s Off
Nobody expects the Spurs to win this series. Heck, most people wouldn’t be surprised if they got swept. All of the pressure is on the Warriors to win this series. If the Warriors go down 2-1 or 3-2 in this series, Golden State may wilt under the pressure. If you don’t believe me, look what happened in last year’s Finals.
10. Shea Serrano’s Twitter Account
Do you follow The Ringer writer and Spurs’ superfan Shea Serrano on Twitter? If not, do that immediately. Shea is one of the funniest people on the internet. More importantly, he is a diehard Spurs fan and probably their chief motivator. He has offered his life for Kawhi Leonard, temporarily pardoned LaMarcus Aldridge, and put all of his trust in Genius Gregg Popovich. The world is a better place when Shea is tweeting about the Spurs. We can’t let that end early. We need him for the Finals, and he will help get his Spurs to the promised land.
11. Frontcourt Advantage
The one area where the Spurs could have the talent advantage is in the frontcourt. If you take KD and Kawhi as a borderline wash, then you have Draymond, Zaza, and Javale on the Warriors side versus LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and ex-Dub David Lee on the Spurs side. Obviously Draymond is the best player in that group, but the Spurs frontcourt has the skill, experience, and depth to give the Warriors issues. Aldridge needs to bring his A game like he did in Game 6 against the Rockets, but if he can somehow continue to play like that, the Spurs can take advantage of the paint.
12. Rust over Rest
After sweeping the Jazz, the Warriors will have had five days off between Game 4 of that series and Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Spurs only have two days off after James Harden’s funeral and are playing some of their best overall team basketball of the season. The Spurs need to jump out and steal Game 1 while the Warriors are still trying to adjust and get their footing. Winning that Game 1 on the road would go a LONG way into beating a team as good as Golden State.
13. Never Doubt the Spurs
Since Gregg Popovich became Head Coach of the Spurs, they have won 5 NBA Titles, 1,150 regular season games, 166 playoff games, 37 playoff series, and Pop somehow has only 3 Coach of the Year awards. Pop has also beaten EVERY team in the West at least once in the playoffs. Yet every almost every year, pundits doubt the Spurs, say they are done, say this is the year they fall off. Vegas has the Warriors as 10-1 favorites (according to 5Dimes) to win the series and FiveThirtyEight only gives them a 13% chance to win the series. They are ready to prove everyone wrong once again.
Photo Credit: ClutchPoints.com