NBA Western Conference Finals Preview
CAN THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS MAKE THINGS INTERESTING IN WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS VS. GOLDEN STATE?
When news broke late Thursday that Kawhi Leonard would miss Game 6 of San Antonio's second round series with the Houston Rockets, it was assumed that the Western Finals would be delayed until The Battle of Texas went the full seven games.
Not so fast!
The Spurs played great shorthanded, reminding everyone of the power of team basketball when it's played by smart well-coached athletes. James Harden reminded everyone that carrying a team on your shoulders can be too exhausting to pull off vs. great opponents! It's like head coach Mike D'Antoni had Harden run a marathon at a full sprint all season, only to see him collapse at the 24-mile mark.
And, a collapse it was. San Antonio almost covered Game 6 by 50 points! a 25 Unit winner for Kelso and his customers.
Can San Antonio get any wins against fresh, rested, and loaded Golden State? Can the underdog Spurs at least cover some spreads? Let's run through the key indicator categories.
Both teams play great defense. In fact, they were the two best defenses in the NBA this year on a per-possession basis (adjusting for pace). And, they both did that playing in the superior Western conference. It's already a lock that a great defense is going to win the West. Can San Antonio maintain a high level of defense if Kawhi Leonard is hobbled? Huge question if you're handicapping this series.
San Antonio was the slightly better rebounding side during the regular season. But, that becomes a question mark if super-athlete Leonard isn't at full strength. And, it should be said that Golden State tends to be more aggressive on the boards in the playoffs than they are during the regular season (which you saw during the Utah series). We're going to call this even on the assumption that Leonard will at least be close to 100%. If he isn't, the series is pretty much over already!
Golden State has a historically great offense that overwhelms opponents with pace while also shooting very efficiently. San Antonio is very good...but the inferior of the two scoring units even when Leonard is healthy (and Tony Parker is in uniform). Big advantage here or the Warriors. This is a "defense and rebounding wins championships" team that also has a fantastic offense. Nothing quite like it in league history.
The Spurs are one of the slowest teams in the league, using a patient but brilliant passing offense to create open looks for quality shooters. Golden State is very fast, though not quite as fast as Houston. You just saw in the second round that San Antonio got run out of the gym when they let Houston blow-and-go. But, they were largely in control when they could slow things down. The key difference here is that Golden State is a TEAM that runs, while Houston needs James Harden racing down the floor to distribute the ball. The wear-down potential just isn't there against the Warriors. San Antonio basically has no shot at a "battle of attrition" victory unless there are some unexpected injuries.
Golden State is a HUGE favorite on the series moneyline in Las Vegas, making it virtually impossible to pick them unless you're a deep-pocketed high roller. Is San Antonio worth a bet on the series price? Probably better, if you like the Spurs as a value investment, to take the high number of points that will be offered in the first two games. That will give you a chance to evaluate the series. And, if you're right that SA is value...you just might go 2-0 with your bets while they go 0-2 in tough straight up losses. We're not endorsing this strategy...just pointing out that IF YOU KNOW YOU LIKE THE SPURS, that would be a good way to play it.