NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Game 2 Preview
By Dylan Carter
Following a devastating 113-111 loss in Game 1, the San Antonio Spurs will attempt to bounce back against Golden State without the help of star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Despite leading by as many as 25 points, the San Antonio Spurs collapsed following an ankle injury to Kawhi Leonard in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday.
Leonard, who finished with 28 points on 53.8 percent shooting, missed Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals with a similar ankle injury.
Now, heading back to Oracle Arena for Game 2, San Antonio will need all hands on deck to battle Golden State.
The Injury Bug
Following an MRI on Monday afternoon, Kawhi Leonard’s ankle was reportedly left without structural damage. He is doubtful for Game 2 and will be re-evaluated before Game 3.
#Spurs officially list Leonard (sprained left ankle) as doubtful for Game 2. Pop has already ruled him out.
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) May 15, 2017
Tony Parker remains sidelined following a rupture to his left quadricep tendon.
As for Golden State, Andre Iguodala remains questionable following a knee injury.
The LaMarcus Show
LaMarcus Aldridge has proven himself as a leader despite adversity throughout his tenure as a Spur. In Game 6 of the WCSF, Aldridge exploded for 34 points and 12 rebounds against the Houston Rockets.
Coming off of a high scoring performance (28) in Game 1, Aldridge is primed to take over the Spurs’ scoring load in the absence of Kawhi Leonard.
Through the screens and switches forced by Popovich’s offense, Aldridge will likely find himself matched up with smaller defenders. His strength alone should be enough to create an easy bucket when Golden State decides against doubling.
LaMarcus! #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/TomdSJGu3C
— NBA (@NBA) May 14, 2017
The former All-Star struggled to overcome the double teams of the Golden State Warriors after Leonard’s injury, which resulted in his six turnovers on the night.
Coach Gregg Popovich may look to surround Aldridge with several shooters on the perimeter. This way, Aldridge can kick the ball to open shooters when Golden State double teams in the post.
It won’t be an easy task, but Aldridge has a great opportunity to dominate the rest of the series, starting with Game 2.
When There’s a Will, There’s a Way: Winning Without Leonard
Losing their star forward is going to be a clear blow to the Spurs, but the task at hand is not impossible. Even with the injuries, San Antonio remains a far deeper team than Golden State with multiple dynamic scorers and defenders.
The willpower and chemistry of the Spurs’ roster is clear. Their trust in eachother and awareness on the court give them a fighting chance.
We're in this together. #GOSPURSGO pic.twitter.com/0fUSum2Z78
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 15, 2017
Jonathon Simmons, whose impact throughout the playoffs has been immense, will need to take on Kawhi’s defensive responsibilities. Guarding former MVP Kevin Durant is no easy task, but neither was guarding James Harden in the Conference Semifinals
If Simmons can help to contain Durant’s explosive offense, it’d allow to Spurs to focus on slowing Stephen Curry.
Putting Simmons in for Green instead of Pau/Lee is working out. Forces KD to guard LMA since this is Draymond’s normal rest.
— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 14, 2017
Danny Green and Patty Mills will have their hands full with Golden State’s ‘Splash Brothers.’ Green and Mills will need to keep up the speed and shooting of Curry and Thompson in the back court.
Pau Gasol’s size, rebounding and floor spacing will be crucial in overcoming Golden State’s bigmen.
One trait that has led to the outstanding career of Coach Popovich is his adaptability. Despite injuries, Pop is able to implement the strengths of each individual player to build a cohesive gameplan.
Game 2 will be an uphill battle for San Antonio, but there’ll certainly be a sense of urgency throughout the locker room.
With all odds stacked against them, the Spurs tend to perform at a higher level. They’ve won eight of the nine games played without Leonard this year including one against the Warriors.
As for Golden State, they’ll look to attack every weakness left by Leonard’s injury. Anticipate Kevin Durant to take a larger ball handling role without Leonard pestering him.
Durant stats today:
With Kawhi OFF: 23 pts, 33.7 USG%, 85.1 TS%, +78.1 net ratingWith Kawhi ON: 11 pts, 27.6 USG%, 43.1 TS%, -29.4 net rtg
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) May 14, 2017
Stealing Game 2 in the Bay would be huge in leveling the series. If they can attack Golden State’s lack of interior presence and contain their stars, San Antonio may beat the odds and even the series.