If basketball has any say, the NBA’s best answered the age-old question Monday night: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
After blowing through Cleveland, Chicago and Indiana by a combined 77 points, the Golden State Warriors’ dominating 120-90 victory over the Spurs may have been the most demonstrative message to the entire league.
It was billed as a matchup of the two beasts of the association, and rightfully so. Despite the Golden State Warriors being on a record-setting pace for wins, they came into Monday night’s showdown holding a slim two-game advantage over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs (38-7) came in boasting the league’s stingiest defense, but the Warriors (41-4) and their top-scoring offense eclipsed the 89.8 points San Antonio had allowed per game this season, with 95 — through three quarters.
When asked about the impression left by beating the Spurs so easily, Stephen Curry interrupted:
“There wasn’t anything easy about it. Obviously the score was heavily in our favor, but we had to work for everything. There’s nothing easy about beating a team that good.”
In what most expected to be a dog fight, the Warriors dispatched their adversary with the kind of domination they’ve shown since and before losing by double-digits in Detroit just over a week ago.
Like the previous eight games, the Warriors’ offense was led by Curry.
The reigning MVP put up 37 points in just 28 minutes on 12-for-20 from the field (6-for-9 on 3s), and was once again able to watch the entire fourth quarter from the bench. Curry’s efforts were reinforced by terrific bench scoring from Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush (13 apiece) and 12 more from Marreese Speights.
The Spurs scorers were led by Kawhi Leonard (16) who also sat out the fourth.
All-Star hopeful Draymond Green approached another triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists in just 27 minutes.
Green’s statistical production was unimpressive compared to what has been expected, though the Warriors’ defensive leader did exactly that.
In the absence of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Green was tasked with slowing four-time all star LaMarcus Aldridge. The game exacted a great physical toll on Green, so much so that head coach Steve Kerr said, for the first time in his experience, Green asked to be removed for a rest.
Curry spoke to Green’s work on the defensive end:
“He played physical and didn’t let LaMarcus get to his spots. He didn’t go for many fakes and made him take tough shots over him.”
Aldridge’s five point and three rebounds were nowhere near his averages of 15 points and nine rebounds per game, saddling him with a game-worst minus-20 point differential.
While Green was exerting himself on the defensive end, it was Curry flurries in the first and third quarters that provided the scoring.
After going for 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting (3-for-4 for three) in the first, and through an assortment of defensive looks, Curry exploded for 18 more in third, nearly doubling the Dubs’ 15-point lead.
Among the defensive looks Curry faced was occasional full-court pressure from Spurs guard Patty Mills, as wells as one-on-one work against the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard.
On several possessions, Curry left Leonard lost and chasing his tail while he nailed long threes or dropped driving layups.
When discussing Curry’s approach on the defensive star, Kerr pointed to a matchup between the two last season when Leonard scored a steal and dunk.
Monday night, the tables were even turned in that aspect.
San Antonio, who came in committing an average of less than 13 turnovers per game, allowed 32 points off turnovers.
Leading the way, again, was Curry who pilfered the Spurs a game-high five times. The takeaways, according to Kerr, were the difference in the game:
“I like our tone. We got the game to our pace, and I thought it was our defensive pressure that set the pace… They’re a team that doesn’t really turn the ball over and they had 26 turnovers tonight.”
Kerr went on to acknowledge that the Spurs will likely not commit as many mistakes in future games, so his team will need to play even better, perhaps, when the two teams face off March 19 in San Antonio, where the Warriors haven’t won since Curry was eight years old.