Between the first and second quarters in Game 2, Doris Burke had the duty of asking Gregg Popovich questions about his team’s performance thus far. The San Antonio Spurs already trailed the Golden State Warriors 33-16. The Spurs barely outscored Stephen Curry (15 points) in the first quarter. Any semblance of the inspiring effort in Game 6 against the Houston Rockets wasn’t going to show itself Tuesday night in Oracle Arena.
Burke asked her first question of Popovich about what he saw in the first quarter. Pop essentially told Doris his team didn’t score enough points. Sideline reporters are guaranteed two questions with a coach during those intermissions. Instead of going with a second question, Burke remembered her past interactions with Pop and read the lay of the interview land. She opted to forego her second question and throw it back to the announcers.
Burke is a pro’s pro in whatever she does. She didn’t want to commit herself to a potentially annoying or troublesome part of the job Tuesday night. Nobody seriously judged her negatively for it. They applauded her for not only taking a stand but also not forcing things just for the sake of having the “obligation” of doing so. In what would eventually settle in at a 136-100 victory for the Warriors, it left viewers and pundits of the game green with envy.
Once we all saw a Disney movie wasn’t going to break out on the floor of Oracle Arena, we were all just waiting for this game to be over. The absence of Kawhi Leonard meant destruction for the Spurs. The Warriors didn’t miss the opportunity to come through on that destruction. It surprised nobody. We all wanted to be Doris Burke early in this game. Just walk away from the situation, knowing that the next part of the experience was unlikely to matter.
The game became academic quickly, and both teams got in their second- and third-string players. Curry finished with 29 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. He hit 6-of-9 from deep. The Warriors finished with 39 assists. Compare that to the Spurs making just 37 shots in the game. You can see the blowout take form on paper, if you missed it in action.
Maybe the most compelling moment of the second half came when people were reminded that Joel Anthony is a member of the Spurs. Trying to figure out if Pau Gasol actually played in Game 2 or if the Spurs sat him for rest becomes a parlor game. Figuring out if either of JaVale McGee’s 3-point attempts were in rhythm of the offense turns into quite the chore.
(No, you didn’t miss JaVale McGee 3-point attempts in Game 2. I lied that they happened. But the fact that you possibly questioned if you should seek them out shows just how forgettable Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was.)
Life without Kawhi doesn’t yield a competitive series. At least, not in the final 19 minutes of Game 1 or the full 48 minutes of Game 2 in Oakland. Perhaps getting to the games in San Antonio galvanizes a better effort. Or is questioning their effort even fair at this point? Pop will demand better of his players. Ratings for the series will probably be fleeting at best. Unless the Spurs pull off the improbable of stealing a game.
Pop deciding to rest a young Tim Duncan years ago in the playoffs due to injury likely gets extended to Kawhi this time around. Look after his future; punt on the present. Channel your inner Doris Burke. Just remind yourself that nobody will judge you for deciding not to ask your second question. We all nod in an understanding of the situation.
Excavating a bright spot for San Antonio
Not everything about this game holds a nihilistic feeling. The Spurs did get a minor bright spot in this game in the form of Jonathon Simmons. Despite getting blown out in his time on the court, Simmons filled in for Leonard admirably. In 26 minutes of action, Simmons scored 22 points and shot well from the field (8 of 17). He left a lot of people searching for compliments about the Spurs’ side of it all and pinpointing him as something impressive.
Warriors follows on Twitter discussed how nice of a player he shows to be. Spurs follows focused a bit on what this type of exposure means for his impending free agency. By now, most die-hard NBA fans know that Simmons spent $150 on a D-League tryout. Eventually, that turned into a real opportunity to make an NBA team. The Spurs found themselves investing in his future, and so far that investment has become Danny Green-esque for RC Buford and Pop.
Simmons enters restricted free agency this summer, and it will take a big offer sheet to get the Spurs to pass on keeping him. The Spurs might have to finagle some financials to pursue George Hill or possibly even Chris Paul. An aggressive team on the first day of free agency can come to Simmons with a hefty offer sheet and try to force the Spurs to make a decision before they’re ready.
Simmons still has a lot of work to do at the NBA level. But he has shown flashes in the playoffs and all season regarding his potential. Thankfully, he gave San Antonio something to discuss other than the shellacking.
Next order of business for Golden State
Saying the Warriors should be worried about Klay Thompson is a bit dramatic. His defense has mostly been good during the 10 Warriors playoff games. And his poor shooting hasn’t exactly cost them any victories, since they’re still undefeated. Thompson had another slow scoring/shooting game in the playoffs. His seven rebounds and four assists register as positives for the Warriors. They’ll take those numbers from him every time.
However, 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting doesn’t cut it for what they need from him. It’s fine against a battered Spurs team missing two starters. It probably won’t cut the mustard for the Warriors in a showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third straight year. Thompson has made just 38.8 percent of his shots in the postseason. His 36.3 percent from deep works for most shooters in the NBA, but it’s a downturn for him.
At some point in Game 3 or Game 4 (if they’re both blowouts), the Warriors should find a shooting rhythm for Thompson. Build momentum and confidence for him leading into the NBA Finals. It’s nitpicking at this point, but that’s all we have right now.