The San Antonio Spurs were going to need everything to go right to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. The Warriors have more talent, more weapons, a defense just as good, a deeper bench that Houston was missing, and multiple players who can just take over the game offensively even if you do manage to defend them.
In Game 1, they had those circumstances align, for a while. They caught the Warriors off-guard, locked them down defensively, hit shots to slow them down in transition, and dictated the game.
Then Kawhi Leonard went down. Everything changed, and the Warriors snuck out a victory because they have the two players to have won three MVPs in the last three seasons. In Game 2, the Spurs "felt sorry" for themselves, as they described it, never putting up a fight.
Now Game 3 is Saturday night, and Leonard is once again out with the ankle injury. It's all sorts of unfortunate, for the Spurs, and for the league that is suffering from an image issue in these playoffs due to the lack of serious competition against the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers , making everything seem rather meaningless, while the games turn into blowouts.
Here's a quick look at Game 3 for the Spurs and Warriors.
THE SPURS LONE HOPE: ROLE PLAYERS SHOOT BETTER AT HOME
The Spurs found a way to win Game 5 vs. the Houston Rockets without Kawhi Leonard, because they were at home and just found answers. Patty Mills hit some shots. Jonathon Simmons made some shots you would never believe he could. LaMarcus Aldridge made enough of his inefficient repertoire of shots. The formula was suspect, but the Spurs have a way of just converting things and making them happen. That, combined with the letdown of playing a team without its best player, opened the door for the Spurs to slip by the Rockets, when Houston had outplayed them in large part throughout the series.
They're going to need a similar performance in Game 3, and hope the Warriors aren't locked in. This starts with Patty Mills, who is shooting 10 percent from 3-point range in this series. Danny Green is going to have to take over as well, not exactly something he does. The Spurs might be at their best offensively putting the ball in the hands of Jonathon Simmons, who has been lights out since the Rockets series, and is an athletic wing who is hitting from the outside and can get to the rim... until the Warriors focus in on him.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE WILL NOT SAVE YOU
There will be a lot of talk about how LaMarcus Aldridge is the player who needs to step up for San Antonio, given his star status. Let me cut this off at the pass.
It's not happening.
What's a great night for Aldridge? 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting and 10 free throws? Maybe throw in two turnovers? That's 30 possessions. What do Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry score on 30 combined possessions? And that's if he has a ridiculous night. That's not going to happen. He's , constantly, unnecessarily. He's going to get pushed out by Draymond Green . He's going to get beat in transition. And his offense will never be efficient enough to justify his usage.
Aldridge hit free agency at the perfect time two summers ago, before the league realized that you can't build around players like him anymore. Marc Gasol has converted to a stretch-5, for crying out loud. Sure, the Spurs were winning with Aldridge in the first half by 20 in Game 1. But a series isn't one game. And we've seen players like Aldridge neutralized and picked on, more and more.
LaMarcus Aldridge is who he is, and he's not coming to save the Spurs.
KEEP THE EDGE
The Warriors just have to stay on them. There has been a constant battle between the Warriors and the Cavs throughout the season to one up one another. They're even in a battle to see who could make the most random players rotation-worthy. (The Warriors won with a JaVale McGee over the now-released Larry Sanders.) One team blows out a team, the other team tries to blow out the next even bigger.
It's a constant game of "Any team you can destroy I can destroy a similar team more." The Boston Celtics aren't as good as the Spurs, obviously, but LeBron James basically sent the Boston franchise back to the stone age.
This is a trap game. They destroyed San Antonio in Golden State in Game 2. The Spurs cannot play worse. Leonard is out. There's every reason for a letdown game. The Warriors don't have to make adjustments or lineup changes. They just have to do what they do. But they cannot let up. The Spurs will smell blood and seize on it. The Warriors want to match the Cavs in rest, and to do that, they need to put the boots to them in San Antonio, end this series, give them no reason to force Leonard back in a series that's over, and get ready for the only showdown that matters.