Warriors sweep Spurs: 3 takeaways from Game 4

The Golden State Warriors eliminated the San Antonio Spurs from the NBA Playoffs on Tuesday night. Here are three takeaways from Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Golden State Warriors know how to close, don’t they?

With a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, the Warriors waltzed into San Antonio with a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals and walked out with some hardware, sending the Spurs home for the year with a 129-115 victory on Monday night. This wasn’t quite as easy as the other two closeout games the Warriors have been involved in this postseason but they still made it look pretty easy. It also wasn’t a wire-to-wire win like the first two were as Manu Ginóbili, who was starting his first playoff game in four years and his first game this season, scored the opening bucket to give the Spurs a 2-0 lead. But it was a win nonetheless and as it tends to happen with Golden State, they got out in front early.

After a slow shooting start, Golden State heated up in the first quarter and went on to take a 31-19 lead into the second. Steph Curry led the way in the opening frame with 13 points and Kevin Durant, who was smooth as silk all night, chipped in eight. The Spurs, on the other hand, couldn’t shake their early shooting woes and after starting just 3-of-16 from the floor, they finished just 9-for-31 in the quarter to the tune of 29 percent. You can’t do that at home against a team like the Warriors in an elimination game.

The Spurs did their best to stay in it from there, shooting a little better in the second quarter to keep within striking distance, but Golden State stayed the course and continued to play well. Curry finished with 18 points in the first 24 minutes and Durant added 10 in the second quarter to total 18 of his own. Draymond Green also had a solid first half with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists to help Golden State take a 65-51 lead into the locker room.

The Spurs were able to cut the lead to 10 at one point in the third quarter but the Warriors just have too many weapons and extended the lead to 16 points, 96-78, heading into the fourth quarter. San Antonio, and especially Manu Ginóbili, who heard the chants in what might be his final NBA game, tried desperately to save their season but Golden State was just too much. Curry finished with 36 points on 14-for-24 shooting and Durant added 29, missing just three of his 13 shots on the night. Kyle Anderson led the way for San Antonio with 20 and Ginóbili finished with 15.

With the win, the Warriors matched the 1999 Spurs with their 12th consecutive playoff win and head to the NBA Finals, which will start June 1, to meet the winner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

Here are three takeaways from Game 4.

Takeaways

The Spurs having Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t have mattered. It’s hard to say that seeing as he’s a Most Valuable Player candidate and all, but let’s get real here. One player, even one as good as Kawhi Leonard is at both ends of the floor, wouldn’t have won this series for the San Antonio Spurs. The Golden State Warriors just have too many weapons and that’s pretty much the real takeaway from this series…or the last three years for that matter…minus losing that 3-1 lead last year anyway. And while the focus is usually on their offense, their defense sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. They were second in defensive rating in the regular season behind only the Spurs and lead that same category in these playoffs. They led the league in steals and blocks per game, were third in defensive rebounding (trailing the two leaders by just one-tenth of a percentage point) and really don’t get the credit they deserve.

And then, of course, there is the offense. What are you supposed to do to stop these guys? They’re the highest-scoring playoff team in the last quarter-century and why wouldn’t they be? Kevin Durant. Steph Curry. Draymond Green. Klay Thompson (more on him in a minute). Any of these four could put up 40 on a given night and can beat you on the perimeter and in the paint. It’s highly unlikely that every single one of them is going to have an off night so you just have to try and decide who you want to beat you. And if by chance a couple of them are off, you’ve got guys like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West to pick up the slack. It’s hard to say anything that hasn’t already been said about this team and only time will tell if the nine days off between this game and the NBA Finals will slow them down.

Klay Thompson does need to step it up a bit. If there is one superstar for the Warriors that’s been a bit off, it’s Klay Thompson. It’s not that he’s playing horribly by any means, but it’s just not what we’re used to seeing. Some expected his stats to dip a little bit with the signing of Kevin Durant but he actually averaged a career-high 22.3 points in the regular season, just above his 22.1 average a season ago. He shot 46.8 percent from the floor in his 78 games and 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. But in the 11 playoff games leading into this Game 4, Thompson was averaging just 14.8 points per game and was shooting an uncharacteristic 39.6 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from the 3-point line. And he certainly wasn’t great on Monday night with 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. Overall, those aren’t the worst stats in the world, but when…and yes, I said when…the Warriors meet up with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, they’re going to need all hands on deck. But Thompson is a shooter and he’s going to continue to shoot. History says they’re bound to start going in at some point.

If this is it for Manu Ginóbili…thank you. There’s not much more to say about the Warriors and with the Spurs headed home for the season, this isn’t really the place to discuss what they need to do in the offseason. So the final takeaway from this game is that NBA fans might have just witnessed the final game for Manu Ginóbili. It was widely expected that when he signed his one-year, $14 million contract to stay in San Antonio, this season would be his last and while he hasn’t come out and said so, that’s likely what’s going to happen.

The Argentinian hero turns 40 on July 28 and has played at an extremely high level for 15 years. In that time, he’s won four NBA titles, been selected to the All-NBA Third Team on two occasions, been an All-Star twice (that number seems way too low) and won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He also led the Argentine national team to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the first team in 16 years besides the United States to do so, and was also the country’s flag bearer in Beijing four years later.

He’s provided countless highlights throughout his career and has shown nothing but class on and off the court. He’s a true professional and if this was the last time we get to see him in an NBA uniform, he can retire knowing that he gave his all to the game. And there’s no takeaway that could be better than that.