The Golden State Warriors defeated the San Antonio Spurs by a 113-111 score in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. Simply using the final score as a gauge for this game would be a complete injustice to the craziness that occurred.
For starters, the Spurs annihilated the Warriors in the first half, using defensive pressure and pinpoint offensive execution to reach a 25-point lead behind the excellence of Kawhi Leonard. Before tweaking his left ankle twice and ultimately leaving the game, Leonard dropped 26 points and hit all 11 of his free throws.
Golden State went 48 percent from the field, 37 percent from deep, and had 19 turnovers. San Antonio was 48 percent from the floor, 32 percent on triples, and had 17 turnovers. The Warriors won the rebounding battle by a 43-37 margin.
As the Spurs jumped out to its massive lead, the Warriors were sleep walking. Both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were super poor by their standards with each player lacking a rhythm. The Warriors only scored 16 points in the first quarter with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant not exactly lighting it up, either.
However, despite the giant hole that Golden State dug for itself by virtue of its own errors and San Antonio’s outstanding play, a comeback was in store once Leonard exited. Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot following a jump shot which resulted in the second tweak for San Antonio’s MVP candidate.
With Leonard out, Curry and Durant shined. Perhaps this was coming anyway, but this duo’s excellence was certainly amplified once a legitimate opportunity to steal Game 1 was presented. Curry finished with 40 points on 14-26 shooting (7-16 on triples) and Durant put up 34 on 11-21 shooting (10-for-12 from the line).
In the third quarter in particular, Curry appeared to showcase his MVP form. He drained multiple threes and helped keep the Warriors in the game as the Spurs managed to sustain a 20-point lead. Also critical to Golden State’s run was the play of Pachulia and Shaun Livingston.
Pachulia posted 11 points and 9 boards in his more-than-usual 26 minutes of action. Livingston played 23 minutes in part because Andre Iguodala was experiencing knee soreness. Although Livingston only put up 4 points, he did manage to grab 6 rebounds and made multiple critical hustle plays.
Even with Golden State’s gigantic surge accounted for, this game was still a toss-up late. The Warriors needed a Curry missed three/Durant missed three/Curry made three sequence to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, and LaMarcus Aldridge missed a chance to tie the contest with an open three near the end of regulation.
In the same sentence that one points to Leonard going down opening the door for a Golden State comeback, that individual should also credit the Warriors for seizing the moment. It’s highly unfortunate that Leonard exited with an injury, yes, but this is a merciless league. Opportunities to steal games must be capitalized on, and the Curry/Durant duo made sure Game 1 of the West Finals would end in the home team’s favor.
Game 2 will be on Tuesday, 5/16 at 9:00 PM ET.