It was looking like Thursday’s game between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs would be an uneventful contest featuring a depleted Spurs roster, but it no longer appears that will be the case. With Golden State chasing history, and the No.1 seed in the Western Conference still up for grabs, a lot will be on the line at Oracle Arena.
Following an overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors have lost two of their last three games. With four games left on their schedule, Golden State needs to go undefeated in order to set a new NBA record with 73 wins in a season. The Warriors’ recent hiccups also leave open the possibility of the Spurs claiming home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. San Antonio only trails Golden State by three games in the loss column, and the Spurs have a chance to get the No.1 seed if they win both of their remaining meetings against the defending champs.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is known for resting his players down the stretch of the regular season in order to prepare for the playoffs, and he was expected to do so on Thursday. But winning homecourt advantage could be what gets the Spurs past the Warriors in the playoffs, considering they are unbeaten in San Antonio. With something to play for, the Spurs could treat Thursday’s contest like a playoff game.
“I think we'll play. Utah, I thought he was going to rest everybody. But we played Utah, so I don't see any reason we're not playing Golden State,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker said, via Jeff Garcia at Spurs Zone.
“Like I said, before the Utah game, I thought [Popovich] was going to rest everybody. He said he wanted to play. So if we played Utah, I don't see any reason now we're not going to play Golden State. Before, we were going to rest everybody like against Utah and Golden State. But I guess he changed his mind. Everybody's playing now.”
The Spurs are coming off a two-point win over the Utah Jazz. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge played 38 minutes and 36 minutes, respectively, and Tim Duncan’s 24 minutes were just one below his season average.
Golden State remains the overwhelming favorite to win the title for a second year in a row, but they are playing their worst basketball of the season. After putting together the longest home winning streak in NBA history, the team has lost two out of three games at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors and Spurs have split their two meetings this year. When they played in Golden State, the Warriors dominated, winning 120-90. When the two teams did battle in San Antonio, the Spurs forced the Warriors into their worst offensive performance of the year, winning 87-79.
If the Warriors play like they have in recent games, they won’t beat the Spurs, who are also having an historic regular season themselves. Golden State’s recent struggles might not be all that surprising, considering they’ve had a top playoff spot wrapped up for such a long time.
"It's human nature to where, all right, kind of ready for the regular season to end," Warriors forward Draymond Green said after Monday’s loss to Minnesota. "Talking 82 games, we get bored with that after a while. And that's no excuse, just, I'm always give it to y'all real, and that's about as real as I can be. It's kind of at a point now where you're ready for the regular season to be over."
Now that Golden State realizes the opportunity to make history and keep the No.1 seed both could be in jeopardy, they should be re-focused and return to their old selves at home.
Prediction: Golden State over San Antonio, 100-93