Five things we learned from the Warriors' Game 1 win over the Spurs

Laith Malhas 15/05/2017
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The Golden State Warriors staged an epic comeback to beat the San Antonio Spurs 113-111 after trailing by 20 points at halftime. The Warriors went on an 18-0 tear after Kawhi Leonard sat out of the game due to an ankle injury he sustained in the third quarter.

The hobbled squad could not hold on to the lead and fell victim to the largest conference finals comeback since 2002 when the Boston Celtics came back from a 26-point deficit to beat the New Jersey Nets.

Here are the five things we learned from Game 1:

KAWHI’S INJURY MADE THE DIFFERENCE

Leonard is the MVP of the team and the engine that drives the Spurs on both sides of the court. His scoring and facilitating are vital to the team’s success. His lockdown defence also gives San Antonio the luxury of assigning the “Claw” to cover the opposing team’s best player.

After Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and hurt his ankle, the tide automatically turned for the Warriors. At that point the Spurs had a 78-55 point lead with 7:53 left in the third quarter, but the Warriors started to pour it on afterward. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were unstoppable during the run and the Spurs could not weather the storm.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One

THE SPURS HAVE THE BETTER COACH

It was clear that from the outstart that the Warriors were being outplayed and outcoached. Gregg Popovich was thoroughly poking holes into the strategy of Mike Brown, who is filling in for head coach Steve Kerr. Popovich’s squad was swarming the Warriors on defence while scoring comfortably on the offensive end.

Brown did not make any effective adjustments during the first half as the Warriors continued to struggle. Coach Kerr was present in the locker room and was recorded at half-time pointing out what the team was lacking and what in-game tweaks they should implement. Despite Kerr’s pep talk during the half, the Warriors struggled to get back into the game up until Leonard’s injury.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One

CURRY AND DURANT LED THE CHARGE

Durant was determined to make a splash in the fourth and lead the stagnant Warriors on both ends of the floor. Durant scored 12 of his 34 points in the last quarter and was key in making stops on the defensive end. Curry exploded for 40 points and hit the game-tying three-pointer that put an exclamation mark on the Warriors comeback. Steph then sealed the game with his mid-range jumper that gave the Warriors a three-point lead with 9.5 seconds left on the clock. The Spurs had a chance to tie but LaMarcus Aldridge missed a 3-pointer from the left corner as the game clock trickled down.

PACHULIA DID NOT ATTEMPT TO INJURE LEONARD

After Kawhi rolled his ankle on Pachulia’s foot as he was attempting a jump shot, questions arose as to what Pachulia’s intentions were. The play was an example of the physical defence that sometimes ends in two players colliding. Pachulia was not able to give Kawhi enough space to land on his feet and it subsequently led to the injury. In his postgame interview, Leonard expressed that he did not feel the play was on purpose and that Pachulia was simply contesting his shot.

THE WARRIORS ARE IN A FIGHT

If Game 1 was any indication to how this series will continue then the Warriors should expect a tough and competitive best-of-seven against San Antonio. However, it very much hinges on how healthy Leonard is.

San Antonio has a system, Popovich is a master at adjusting and getting his squad ready for the battles ahead. If the Spurs are at full strength, the match-up has all the earmarks for a classic playoff battle in the Western Conference Finals.

Game 2 is Tuesday night at 04:00 (+1) UAE time.

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Warriors beat Spurs in epic 25-point comeback

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Stephen Curry.

Stephen Curry scored 40 points and Kevin Durant 34 to power a stunning second-half comeback that lifted Golden State over San Antonio 113-111 Sunday in an NBA playoff thriller.

The Spurs squandered a 25-point lead and might have lost star forward Kawhi Leonard, who left the game for good with a sprained left ankle early in the third quarter.

Golden State seized a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven Western Conference final, which continues Tuesday in Oakland. The winner plays defending champion Cleveland, Boston or Washington in the NBA Finals.

The much-anticipated matchup between the most productive NBA scoring attack of Golden State, which led the league with 67 wins, and the top NBA defense of the Spurs, next best at 61 wins, met high expectations.

Kawhi Leonard scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half and LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 of his 28 in the opening two quarters as the Spurs seized a 62-42 half-time lead.

But Leonard left the contest for good with 7:53 to play in the third quarter, limping to the locker room with a left ankle sprain.

The Warriors responded by scoring the next 18 points, pulling within 78-73 on Durant’s fast break slam dunk.

The Warriors were given a half-time pep talk by Kerr, who has given way to Brown since the second playoff game due to complications from back surgery.

Curry scored 19 points in the third quarter to ignite the fightback, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range, but the Warriors still trailed 90-81 entering the fourth quarter, Curry being treated on the bench for a right arm issue.

Two Durant 3-pointers and a dunk trimmed the Spurs’ lead to 96-93 and after two baskets by Shaun Livingston and some Spurs misses, Durant’ dunk with 4:09 remaining put Golden State ahead 101-100, their first lead since 8-7 in the opening minutes.

Draymond Green’s three-point play put the Warriors ahead 109-106 and after an Aldridge miss, Curry made a driving layup to lift the Warriors ahead 111-106.

Argentina’s Manu Ginobili responded with a dunk for the Spurs and Australian Patty Mills, starting in place of injured Tony Parker, made a steal and two key free throws to pull San Antonio within 111-100.

Curry made a shot over Aldridge for the final Warrior points and a 113-110 edge, Aldridge missed a tying 3-pointer but Mills was fouled with a half-second remaining. He made the first free throw but missed the second, hoping for a game-tying tip in basket.

Instead, the Warriors swatted away the ball and the clock expired.

The Spurs closed the first quarter on a 12-2 run to lead 30-16, then began the second quarter with a 14-3 spurt to grab their largest lead at 44-19.

The Warriors shot only 34 percent from the floor in the first half and committed 10 turnovers in the first two quarters.

Golden State went the latest of any game this season to make a 3-pointer, their first hoop from beyond the arc coming after Curry made a steal and a long-range shot with 5:05 remaining in the first half, capping at 11-0 Warriors run to climb within 46-32.

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STATESIDE: Another season of hurt for Washington fans

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Move over Chicago – there’s a new curse doing the rounds.

Seeing the Cubs extinguish 108 years of hurt and goat-infused paranoia saw the battered sporting souls of the Windy City unleash a huge collective sigh of relief.

Everyone looked at Chicago baseball with a mix of sympathy and dark humour. Now, though, the jokes and tears are directly firmly towards Washington DC.

The Wizards may have brilliantly kept their NBA playoff dream alive in dramatic fashion on Friday night, yet it was the NHL Game 7 defeat for the Capitals which really stung the country’s capital.

A 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, in the second round of the playoffs was a crushing blow and added to arguably the worst sporting Stateside stat right now: It is 66 combined seasons (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) since a team from DC reached a Conference Finals. And they are 1-for-86 in reaching the semi-final since 1992.

With Cincinnati coming in quite a distant second with 43 , that’s one hell of an awful tally.

While the last of the Redskins’ three Super Bowl wins came 25 years ago, at least there’s been some joy on a football field in amongst a series of car crash seasons since.

No-one expects too much from the Wizards, even with John Wall firing. Their only championship came 39 years ago under the guise of the Washington Bullets.

Over in the MLB, the Nationals, who used to be the Montreal Expos until their move in 2005, have never won a National League pennant let alone trodden the boards during the World Series.

In 2012, the Nationals had the best record around but blew it at the start of the postseason despite being one win away from a first-round victory.

It was more of the same last term, with a super-charged five-game series with the LA Dodgers not going their way.

It’s on the ice, however, where hope has sprung eternal even if the franchise has just ONE Stanley Cup appearance since 1915 (defeat to the Detroit Red Wings in 1998).

The arrival of Russian ace Alex Ovechkin 12 years ago was supposed to signal the start of a brand new era. Millions of dollars have filled his pockets, yet all it’s guaranteed is more heart-wrenching agony.

Nine playoff appearances. Nine series shrouded in disappointment.

There was hope that following an impressive campaign this season – the Caps boasted the best record in the NHL – 2017 would be their year.

Just get past the Penguins and Sidney Crosby. Even when it went to a deciding match and with superstar Crosby sitting out with concussion, hopes were high.

Well, they were until the buzzer sounded. Washington drew a blank, Ovechkin had a stinker before admitting he was playing with an injury which has ruled him out of the World Championships this summer.

The Russian isn’t the player he was – in 82 games this campaign,he netted scored 33 goals with 36 assists. That’s two less in the assist department and 17 fewer goals than last year.

Five goals and three set-ups in 13 postseason matches wasn’t too shabby, but, ultimately, not enough.

Nevertheless, it was a rotten end to a promising season for a team hailed one of best for years.

Ovechkin, at 32 years-old, is past his prime but with four years of a $10 million deal remaining, won’t be going anywhere fast. He remains popular with fans although, tellingly, some sections of the local media have begun to rip into their star turn.

Standout players like TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky were expected to have fired the Caps to glory, but will now look on as the rebuilding starts.

New hopes. New dreams. Yet will reality bite once again?

“As I said to everybody in the room, I hope you get this opportunity again,” said coach Barry Trotz. “You don’t know if you will. You don’t know if you’ll ever get back to the playoffs.”

“When you lose the right to keep playing, when you’re in the playoffs and you feel that you can be a team that can do some damage, it always is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Wizards: It’s over to you.

No pressure.

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