The Golden State Warriors open their title defense on Saturday afternoon against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series. It is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, but has a much different feel to it.watch free now
For one, the Spurs haven’t really been the Spurs this season, dropping to the seventh seed out west, and with 47 victories snapping their phenomenal streak of 18 years with at least 50 wins. Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played since January 13, suffering a quadriceps injury. San Antonio was 29-15 after that game, but just 18-20 afterward.
Leonard may or may not play this series — he was officially ruled out for Game 1 — but nearly everything about his injury has been odd. From our own Tom Ziller:
Golden State limped the finish as well, just 7-10 down the stretch to finish with only 58 wins, which is still excellent but off their average of 69 wins in the previous three seasons.
Steph Curry played just once in those final 17 games, suffering an MCL sprain that will likely keep him out until the second round.
The Warriors won three of the four regular season meetings between these two teams, with the Spurs lone win coming in their last meeting, an 89-75 win in San Antonio in a game played without Kevin Durant, who averaged 28 points on 60% shooting in last year’s conference finals sweep.
Warriors vs. Spurs Game 1 info
Warriors ratchet up their defensive intensity? Asked recently whether his team can “turn the switch” in the playoffs, head coach Steve Kerr outlined what exactly that phrase means to him: After letting its defense lag in recent weeks, Golden State must recapture its focus and tenacity on that side of the ball. The Warriors finished the regular season ninth in the league in defensive rating, marking their first time in five years outside the top five. Over the past few weeks, after it secured the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed behind Houston, Golden State’s defensive effort waned. In three of their final four regular-season games, the Warriors surrendered at least 119 points. Stingy defense will be especially important in the first round because, with Stephen Curry sidelined by a sprained left MCL, Golden State recognizes that it can’t make up for all the NBA’s best floor-spacer provides on offense. This much is almost certain: San Antonio, which tied with the Utah Jazz for the fewest points allowed per game (99.8) in the regular season, will do what it can to muddy up the tempo and quell the Warriors’ still-potent attack
Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
Game time: 3 p.m. ET
Announcers: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson
Online streaming: Watch ESPN