6. No. 2 Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs. No. 7 San Antonio Spurs (47-35)
These franchises met in the Western Conference Finals a season ago. The Spurs came out guns-a-blazing and led by 25 points in Game 1, until Zaza Pachulia may-or-may-not-have intentionally stuck his foot under Kawhi Leonard’s leg as he landed from a jump shot. Just like that, Golden State came roaring back and San Antonio was history. Leonard never fully recovered and signs point to him pushing his way out from the Spurs famed ecosystem. Part of me wants/expects Leonard to emerge from the locker room during Game 1 and hit Pachulia with a folding chair.
The Warriors finally showed cracks this season. Maybe it’s fatigue from the past three finals runs, maybe it’s the unhalting march of time taking its toll on the veterans. Either way, they’re no longer this invincible juggernaut. For Round 1 and possibly the semi-finals as well, they’ll be without Steph Curry while he rehabs his sprained MCL.
It’s hard to ever go against Pop’s cagey savvy and curmudgeonly charm. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finessed a win or two on the back of sheer cunning alone – especially with Curry out. But this is the worst Spurs team in recent memory and the Warriors still have three All-Stars at their disposal. I don’t think San Antonio has the horses to pull off a full-fledged upset, no matter how banged-up Golden State is.
Prediction: Gentleman’s sweep, Warriors in five.
Game 1 between the Warriors and Spurs kicks off the playoff slate at 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 14. ABC will have the national telecast from Oracle Arena in Oakland.