“Call my bluff.”
Those were the words Mark Jackson uttered after Golden State’s Game 2 beat down of the San Antonio Spurs.
After Stephen Curry’s 44 point performance in Game 1, Klay Thompson followed that up with 34 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2. So of course Coach Jackson had the confidence to call his guards, “The greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game.”
And then he challenged Gregg Popovich to call his bluff.
If there is one rule when it comes to being a Spurs fan, it’s never question the coach or front office. Questioning “The Church of Pop” is like a cardinal sin, if you will.
Many always refer to Popovich’s coaching as a game of chess, while the other coach is playing checkers. And that much has been evident in this series.
In each of the five playoff games between the Spurs and Warriors, Popovich has made the proper adjustments to take the ball out of Curry and Thompson’s hands. In every game since Game 1, “The Splash Brothers” attempted field goals has continued to go down. After attempting a combined 50 shots in the first game, they only attempted 46 in Game 2, 37 in Game 3, 28 in Game 4, and a shockingly low 22 attempted field goals in Game 5.
And in the Warriors two victories in this series, it’s obvious that Curry and Thompson have to be producing to win. Even though they only attempted 28 field goals in Game 4, the Warriors backcourt shot 43%, while the rest of the starters shot 33%. In both victories, Curry and Thompson have out-shot (percentage wise) the rest of the Warriors starters.
So what’s the difference? Well sure, Curry’s ankle injury in Game 3 has hobbled him some, allowing Parker to defend on Curry more, instead of having to switch him with Danny Green. But even Curry states he feels fine and that the ankle is not a bother.
It’s the lack of three-pointers the Warriors are shooting. The steady drop of three’s attempted, from 30 attempts in Game 1, has been cut down to 16 attempts in Game 5. The Warriors are a below-average team when it comes to shooting percentage in the paint. Forcing Golden State into more contested mid-range shots and running them off the three point line gets their shooters out of rhythm. And even when they get to the rim, they’re struggling, as obvious with the stat that Klay Thompson is shooting just 36.8% at the rim in the last four games.
Maybe the Warriors “unsustainable shooting” is actually sustainable. But the Spurs increased defensive intensity has denied a good amount of open looks the Warriors rely on to score. With a healthy Parker and Green flying around the wings on defense, Duncan can stay in the post all alone. And the only adjustment Mark Jackson’s made, has been to run more of the offense through rookie Harrison Barnes, who has struggled to shake free of Kawhi Leonard.
But honestly, no adjustment Mark Jackson may make, can fool Gregg Popovich. Besides, Jackson already committed a cardinal sin when he challenged Popovich.
And Game 6 will be Jackson’s time to repent.