The Spurs came to play in Game 1 and took control of the game early. They played brilliant defense protecting the paint with their big’s and took away many of the pass out’s to the three point line. The Warriors were not aggressive at the get-go, turned the ball over 7 times in the first quarter and shot miserably. They trailed by 14 after a quarter, and by as much as 25 in the second quarter. The half-time score was 62-42.
Enter Steve Kerr…
Since he became coach of the Warriors in 2014, Steve tried to give his players the freedom to be themselves and to play to their strengths. He empowered them, assistant coach Ron Adams said, by cultivating a sense of self-reliance that has become even more apparent in recent weeks. Steve has been sidelined since the 2nd game of the Trail Blazers series with complications resulting from a bad back surgery more than two years ago. His teachings to both his coaching staff and his players are now paying huge dividends as his coaching staff know how Steve would want them to coach and the players have taken individual accountability for their play and know how to defend and move the ball the way Steve would want them to play.
At half-time Steve was available to the team and said a few words. He was brief but to the point. “We’ve got to find that balance between pace and discipline,” Kerr said in a clip that was broadcast by ABC. He added, “Settle in, and we’ll be all right.”
“It’s always great to hear Coach Kerr’s voice and give his perspective,” Curry said. “It’s actually a fresh perspective from somebody who is watching the game, so he sees a lot of different angles and he sees how things are developing from a broader perspective, so that’s obviously huge for us.”
Beginning the 3rd quarter, it felt like the Warriors were catching fire as Steph started red hot. But, the Spurs had their own fire and re-built a 23 point lead to 78-55. Then, at 7:55 of the third quarter, Kawhi came down on Zaza’s shoes on his already bad left ankle. This, after he had rolled that same ankle earlier in the game by stepping on David Lee’s shoes who wasn’t even playing at the time. Kawhi, stepped back onto the Spurs bench after firing a shot and landed on Lee’s shoes. There is much chatter about Zaza’s play being dirty which was instigated by the numb-nut, Jeff Van Gundy who said on national TV that Zaza should have been assessed a flagrant foul. Upon review of the replay, Zaza tried to block the shot as he should do, turned his back to Kawhi to block him out for defensive purposes, then started running up-court. He did touch Kawhi’s arm following through with his shot so it was indeed a foul. But, Zaza did NOT intentionally extend his foot to Kawhi’s landing spot, His name is NOT Grayson Allen. Lastly, Kawhi himself said that the Zaza play was not dirty. He was merely contesting the shot.
After Kawhi went out and the Warriors down 78-55, they then scored the next 18 points over the ensuing three and a half minutes to make it a game. They then took over the game by outscoring the Spurs, 58-33 in the final 19+ minutes.
The Warriors outscored the Spurs 71-49 in the second half. The Spurs shot 52.3 percent in the first half, 42.5 percent in the second. The Warriors shot 34.2 percent in the first half, 60.5 percent in the second.
The Warriors put up five more shots in the second half than in the first, and they outrebounded San Antonio 26-14 after halftime after losing the glass battle 23-17 in the first half.
Was this due to the Steve Kerr half-time speech?
This reminded me of the 1st game of the Trail Blazer’s series when McCollum and Lillard went off for 75 points and clearly gave their best effort while still losing to the Warriors by 12. When a team plays their best and still loses, it is demoralizing. The Spurs played their best game, lead by 25, lost their leader, Kawhi, after losing Tony Parker in the Rocket’s series, and still lost by 2 to the Warriors. Although a Popovich team will never quit and will always put up their best effort, the Warriors are also on a mission and they learned a lesson in the first half of this game. They will not be denied. I’m hoping for the best for Kawhi and hope he can come back for the rest of the series. If he is able to play, I see three more games left in the Spurs season.
In my mind, one thing is crystal clear… Kawhi Leonard is the MVP of the NBA for 2017 !!!