The Pick: Warriors 103-92
I struggle to take any anti-Spurs pick to the bank, but this one is too tasty to pass up. The fact that the Spurs are on the second night of a back-to-back (they are 4-2 in such games, but 0-2 against teams that figure to play a role in the playoffs this season) is reason enough to consider picking against them, but with Tony Parker (shin) in street clothes, the Warriors become the only option for gamblers. During the Greg Popovich era, the Spurs tend to focus on the larger picture, so the fact that four main contributors (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Patty Mills) all logged more minutes last night in Phoenix than their season average tells me that could mail in the final game of a four-game road trip. The fact that they host two premier Western Conference teams in the next week could also foreshadow limited involvement for their top players tonight in Golden State.
The opposite seems to be true for the Warriors, who are currently out of the playoff picture but are now at full strength — something that they need to take advantage of considering that it doesn’t happen all that often. Andre Iguodala played 17 minutes on Tuesday (his first action in nearly a month, a stretch in which his team lost eight of 13 games) and gives the Warriors offensive versatility/defensive stability. A major flaw of the Warriors as a defense is that they commit a ton of fouls and thus allow teams to rack up free points at the free throw line (28th in FTA and FTM against), but that impact figures to be limited as the Spurs are far and away the worst team at getting to the stripe (rank dead last in FTA and FTM by more than a full free throw). Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shoot well everywhere, but they combine for 45 points and six triples at home in addition to shooting over 50 percent from the field. San Antonio’s defense ranks below average in three point defense (in terms of percentage) and surprisingly surrenders as many field goals per game as the Warriors.
When it comes down to it, in a long season I prefer to bet on the team that wants/needs the game more, and that is Golden State. If San Antonio can split this road trip (already 2-1) and get back home for a home stretch (seven of their next eight are at home) with some rest and health (theoretically Parker should be ready), it’s a win. This is the type of game Popovich labels as a “nice to win game” as opposed to a “must-win game” as he knows that this game will mean nothing come playoff time. Dub City wants this game, and I think they get it in somewhat convincing fashion.
Fun Fact: The Warriors are constantly labeled as ”soft” because they like to run up and down the court and shoot threes, but they actually grab more rebounds and have a better rebound differential than the Spurs this season.