While most of the national media attention continues to go to the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose, whether or not he will play against the defending champion Miami Heat, quietly the San Antonio Spurs are preparing for their second round series against the upstart Golden State Warriors.
Granted, the Spurs have never needed fanfare to get up for a playoff series. And, considering that they boast an impressive 29-0 home record against the Warriors in the Tim Duncan era, internally they may not be too concerned with their second round matchup. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that it is a big-to-do. It could, potentially, be the most entertaining series of the second round.
All-Star point guard Tony Parker isn’t overlooking tonight’s game.
Seeing as Parker has never been afraid of pushing the tempo (when possible), and considering the youth that R.C. Buford and Coach Popovich have injected into the lineup (players like Danny Green, Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Nando De Colo), don’t expect the Warriors to run roughshod all over Spurs.
If Parker is 100%—which might be a good bet considering how he played towards the end of the series sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers and the week of rest he got while waiting for Golden State to closeout the Denver Nuggets—expect him to put more pressure on the Warriors’ defense than the Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson did in their previous matchup. Parker is surrounded by teammates who are much more disciplined and are superior shooters. If he cannot get to the basket, the he will find the open man, whether it is Duncan at the elbow, Manu Ginobili or Matt Bonner on the perimeter or a slashing Leonard.
Conversely, don’t expect the Warriors to rollover and give the series to the Spurs. They did manage to split their regular season series, taking both of their home games in Oakland.
How much they are able to compete will largely depend on the effort they get from Andrew Bogut in the post. Can he dominate the boards against the Spurs like he did in their Game 6 closeout victory over the Nuggets, when he pulled down 21 rebounds? Can he neutralize Tim Duncan by being a reliable offensive threat for the Dubs?
We know that David Lee isn’t healthy, but—if called upon—can he contribute to their team effort? And how sizable of a contribution can he provide?
To their credit, the Warriors are not afraid. They have two of the league’s best shooters (in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson), and they have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this series.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is rookie guard Kent Bazemore’s pregame statement:
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has his squad ready. Expect them to play free and easy.
Just as Tony Parker said, this should be a really fun series.
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