No lead is ever safe when you are facing the Golden State Warriors.
This is a harsh lesson that the San Antonio Spurs learned as a rampant Warriors squad ran all over them in the second half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Warriors, who were coming off a lengthy rest between series, tried to take advantage of a series of defensive mismatches, but the Spurs were having no part of this as their defense capitalized on sloppy execution — in turn, sparking transition offense that would see the visitors jumping out to as much as a 25 points mid way through the second quarter before the Kawhi Leonard left the game with a sprained ankle.
Seizing this opportunity, Golden State, lead by Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, went on an unbelievable 16-0 run to end the third quarter. That momentum carried through to the final term and once the Dubs hit the lead, the Spurs couldn’t hold them back.
Spurs’ guard Patty Mills spoke after the loss about how Leonard’s exiting the game was almost like a trigger for the Warriors to step up.
“They upped their defensive pressure and we kinda got rattled from that – not knowing what to go to and being organized,” Mills said. “For the majority of the game we were organized know what we were in and trying to take the air out of the gym.
“They upped their defense aggressively and got us out of rhythm there.”
Stealing a game off the Warriors at Oracle Arena would have set San Antonio up to really have a good shot at advancing to the NBA Finals, and Mills says it only serves as motivation that they can take it up to the best in the league.
“It’s a tough loss for sure, but I think it motivates knowing that we played the way we did for that amount of time – we were almost there,” said Mills. “This game is the first game of a very long series. It should give us some momentum if anything, to know that we’re this close, but there’s a long way to go for sure.”
Sunday’s performance from Mills was much quieter than his last few outings, shooting 1-8 from the field and ending the game with only 5 points, but the Australian says that the opportunities weren’t there in this game.
“The defensive pressure took me out of a lot of stuff,” he said. “They didn’t give me open shots and that was it basically.”
Speaking about the possibility of playing without their MVP caliber forward, Kawhi Leonard, Mills says that it’s not the same as in the Houston series when the Spurs were faced with a similar problem.
“It’s a different series, another team and a number of different weapons, so it’s a new game plan form our last series obviously, but we’ll learn as we go; and that’s the greatest thing about a 7 game series – you learn from the last game and adjust on the fly.
“We’ve got guys (that can step up), which is a good thing. You obviously want to be as healthy as you can, but it’s basketball. The best thing we can do is not get discouraged from that.”
Looking forward to Game 2 with a positive outlook Mills remarked: “We’ve still got an amazing opportunity here with the guys that are able to go.”
“We’ve done an alright job of not being discouraged, but we can’t cry about it. It’s not going to help us. We need to dig deeper with the guys that we do have. Find the answers, play hard, play smart. Especially when you’re on the road.”
“We’ve got the guys to get the job done, we just need to do it all together.”
Feature Image: Sporting News