For the first time since the Warriors swept away the Spurs in last season’s Western Conference Finals, the two teams will share a court again on Thursday evening as part of a TNT Doubleheader. If there is still any bad blood out there, the Spurs fans will be sure to let the Warriors know about it tonight.
That bad blood, if there still is any, goes back to Game 1 of that Conference Finals series last season when Zaza Pachulia landed on Kawhi Leonard‘s ankle after biting on the pump fake. Some watchers dubbed it intentional and, whether it was or wasn’t, it shifted the series dramatically. San Antonio would go on to blow a 21-point lead after Leonard left Game 1 and lose the next three.
To this point, Leonard still hasn’t returned. His ankle is healthy but he developed a sort of tendonitis in his thigh in the offseason, an injury that is apparently not related to the ankle problem. It’s been a lingering problem but reports are that Leonard will return in the next week or two.
The Spurs are ready to have him back. They started 4–0 but three straight losses to close out a four-game road trip sets their record at 4–3.
All three of those losses represented an opportunity for Gregg Popovich to match Phil Jackson on the all-time regular season wins list for a head coach. He made some hilarious comments about it after the last loss to the Celtics but you know the Spurs would like to get their leader the milestone win in front of a home crowd. And what better team to do it against than the Warriors?
Like the Spurs and the Cavaliers, the Warriors have played some sloppy basketball, for their standards, in the season’s first two weeks. Golden State opened its season with a loss to Houston, which was a great game, but then fell to the Grizzlies and Pistons with some wins around and in between. It’s clear the Warriors aren’t playing their hardest at the outset of this season and nobody is saying they should. They can still turn it on whenever they want, though. They handed it to the Clippers, 141–113 earlier this week because they just love whooping the Clippers for some reason.
That potential to just unload on anyone, at anytime, makes it frightening to ever fade the Warriors but because that blowout just happened, and because San Antonio is coming home after three stinkers, and because all of the Spurs would love to get Pop that extra special win in this spot, I’m happy to take the Spurs, expect a win and have the seven points, just in case.
Free Pick: Spurs +7