OAKLAND — The Spurs-Warriors showdown had been hyped as the most anticipated regular-season NBA game in decades, possibly ever, but it was remarkable only for its lack of drama.
Stephen Curry and his supporting cast overwhelmed the Spurs every which way, 120-90, and the numbers didn’t lie. The Champs never trailed. The score was tied tied for all of 51 seconds.
But, ‘c’mon, it was an NBA regular-season game in the dead of January. What did it mean, really?
It means Gregg Popovich has a reason to be grumpy again.
“It was like men and boys out there tonight, I thought, as far as the toughness and the aggressive was concerned,” the Spurs boss let loose.
Otherwise, “Nothing really,” said Curry, who scored 37 points only 27 total shots and had five steals. “It’s just one game. . . . We’re going to face them three more times this season. There are other great teams in the league we’ve got to get through.”
“It won’t mean anything if we play San Antonio in the playoffs,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I don’t seem them worrying about one game, you know. Maybe that would be the case with some teams, but not the Spurs. They’ve been in too many games, too many situations be bothered by one game.”
Chances are that Kerr will be proven correct before long. Unless the defeats costs them homecourt advantage against the Warriors in the playoffs, when the two teams are almost certain to meet again, the Spurs will dismiss the outcome like Popovich does post-game questions. It will take a lot more than one blowout loss on the road to break their will.
The Spurs also were without Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, although Duncan had a sore knee as an excuse.
Aldridge? After Draymond Green got physical with him at the outset, the big played small — five points, three rebounds. As one Warriors bigwig told me not long ago, “Aldridge isn’t a real difference-maker. Don’t get me wrong — he’s a talented player — but he’s not the type to make those around him better. He’s limited in what can do. He’s more of a complementary piece.”
For the Warriors, the game meant so much more. It’s no secret that the Spurs have had their number for the better part of two decades. While the core group hasn’t been around that long, they’ve experienced their share of frustration in recent years. The victory was only their fourth in 17 regular-season matchups in the Curry era.
But these are different teams with different personnel in a different year. While the Warriors have great respect for the Spurs, no doubt, they don’t cringe at the sight of them.
“I’ll tell you what — the Spurs don’t scare us,” the same VIP said. “They made some moves, but they’re an old team. They still depend a lot on Duncan and (Tony) Parker and (Manu) Ginobili. By the end of the (regular) season, those guys will be worn down. That’s where we have a big advantage — our nucleus is a lot younger than theirs. In the playoffs, we’ll have fresher legs and that will be the difference.”
Say what they want, the Warriors have to draw a line in the sand at some point. Nobody understood that fact better than Curry — he called the outcome “a huge home victory” between shrugs — and he was quick to set the tone with 15 points in the first quarter.
“Just to understand the emotions of the game and the buildup, for us to back it up with a great win says a lot about our mentality right now,” Curry said.
Yet it wasn’t so much that the Warriors won the game decisively that made it so impressive, but how they pulled it off.
They played the game on their terms, which to say, a relentless pace that no opponent can match for four quarters. They were quicker to loose balls and contest shots. It takes a tsunami earthquake to rattle the Spurs, but their pressure defense did just that. In short, the Champs made the visitors look every bit their age, even seemed to toy with them at times.
Now the Spurs will have to answer questions about their ability to slow the pace, not to mention Curry, the most dominant shot-maker in the league, something that not even All-Defense first teamer Kawhi Leonard could do on this night.
As Popovich groused, “They beat us in every facet of the game. We’ve got a long way to go to play with those guys.”
Paul Ladewski is a veteran Chicago sports journalist who recently relocated to the Bay Area as the Warriors beat writer for the San Francisco Examiner. He is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com.