The conference finals should be set. If not for Indiana’s horrid Thursday night performance against the Knicks, San Antonio’s Game 6 victory over Golden State would have ended the NBA’s second round. How did the Spurs end up taking the final game of what looked like an incredibly tight and engaging series?
Knicks are lucky to still be alive
Indiana shot 36.2 percent, missed 14 free throws and committed 19 turnovers in its 85-75 loss to New York, one it will want back if it somehow loses the next two games (and the series) to the Knicks.
“We’ve just got to play more solid. There’s no other way to put it,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. That’s putting it mildly.
The Indiana frontcourt of Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George shot a combined 17-for-42 and the Pacers still only lost by 10. The Knicks didn’t really help themselves in any way either. Consider these facts:
- New York got VoluMelo instead of Carmelo Anthony, with the Knicks star shooting 12-for-28 from the field while only attempting four free throws.
- Despite forcing 19 turnovers and finishing a plus-eight on that front, Indiana still scored more points off turnovers, 14, than the Knicks’ 12.
- The Knicks were out-rebounded by three and took 16 fewer free throws than the Pacers, but won because Indiana totally coughed up the game.
“I was totally impressed because we met the challenge,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “I think as a coach you come into games like this and you want to see who’s going to step up and make plays, and I thought we did that tonight. We were the better team in terms of doing that.”
Did Woodson watch the same game everyone else did? The Knicks, other than Chris Copeland, who Woodson decided to finally play after exhausting all his other options, and Kenyon Martin were pretty dreadful offensively. J.R. Smith shot 4-for-11 and was praised for his strong performance, truly indicating that Smith’s standards have been lowered. Ima Shumpert shot 2-for-10, Pablo Prigioni has been marginalized, and the Knicks only won because no Indiana player shot better than 50 percent from the field besides for Ian Mahinmi, who hit both his field goal attempts.
The Knicks could choose to look at this game through rose-colored glasses, but it’s extremely unlikely that Indiana will play this poorly at home on Saturday night. Unless Woodson and his team get its act together, reality will quickly strike and end New York’s season. They’re truly fortunate to still be in this series.
How San Antonio eliminated Golden State
On Sunday, Golden State seemed to have figured San Antonio out with a rousing overtime win to knot the series at two games apiece. Several Warriors were making crucial contributions, there was teamwork, balance and perseverance. Some Sheridan Hoops guy even wrote a column about how Golden State had a realistic chance of beating the vaunted Spurs.
So what changed over the last two games? Two key Golden State players basically ran out of gas.
As much as Stephen Curry has deserved the heaping helpings of praise he’s received this postseason, it was clear his ankle hindered the hobbling star enough to really affect the Warriors. Take a look at his splits from the first four games to the final two games of the series:
|Curry||Minutes||FG %||3 FG %||Points||Assists||FTA|
The minutes played are distorted because of the two overtime games in the first four, but Curry’s huge drop-off in 3-point field goal percentage and points scored can be logically attributed to his ankle injuries. As sensational of a player Curry is, he needed to be the focal point of Golden State’s offense to have a chance to knock off the Spurs. He didn’t shoot a single free throw over the final two games, a stat that encapsulates his limitations on Tuesday and Thursday.
The other major factor in the Warriors’ demise is the Andrew Bogut injury finally catching up to him. “I was running on fumes the whole series,” Bogut told the AP after Game 6. After averaging 15.4 rebounds in his previous five games, Bogut was limited to just 40 total minutes in games five and six. After going 2-for-5 with 18 rebounds in Game 4, he went 2-for-5 with 13 total rebounds in the last two contests combined.
It was a tremendous series for Golden State, but injuries to Curry and Bogut caught up with them and ultimately led to the Warriors’ unfortunate ouster.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.