The first two games of the Western Conference Finals couldn’t have been more different for the Golden State Warriors. From trailing by as many as 25 points in Game 1 to winning by 36 points in Game 2, the Warriors have operated on both ends of the dominance spectrum en route to a 2-0 series lead.
For the San Antonio Spurs, the story of the series could be getting told much differently had Kawhi Leonard not re-injured his ankle in the third quarter of Game 1, forcing him to miss all of Game 2.
After struggling to flaunt their familiar dominance to start Game 1, Golden State came out firing on all cylinders in the series’ second leg. Capitalizing on the absence of Leonard, the Warriors’ perimeter players had a field day. Steph Curry led the way, scoring 29 points, and the Warriors finished as a team 18-for-37 from beyond the arc.
By dominating Game 2, the Warriors looked like the same team that had steamrolled their opponents in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and to a perfect 8-0 record coming into their matchup with San Antonio. Should Leonard be unable to play in Game 3 — he’s currently listed as questionable — the Spurs will be facing down a tall task to avoid a 3-0 series deficit.
While the Spurs missing their MVP, the Warriors are enjoying a career-best shooting spectacle from theirs. Curry is shooting a career-high 43.7 percent from deep over the course of this postseason. In just his last three games alone, he’s scored 99 points on just 54 shots. His efficiency and accuracy are at all-time levels right now, and should he enter Game 3 without Leonard there to cause disruption on the wing, Curry could wind up having another field day shooting the ball.
Despite Leonard’s absence, there are potential bright spots for the Spurs. Jonathon Simmons managed to score 22 points in 26 minutes of Game 2. The former D-League player has been able to contribute solid postseason minutes for San Antonio, displaying growth and adding the hope that he could be a bigger contributor for the Spurs moving forward regardless how this series finishes up.
Aside from Simmons, though, there isn’t much to write home about if you’re the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to struggle, scoring just eight points in Game 2 after his meltdown in Game 1’s closing quarter. Signed to be Leonard’s second-fiddle, Aldridge will need to produce more No. 1 option moments should he wish to propel a Leonard-less Spurs team to a victory in Game 3.
But what the third matchup of this series, and the remaining matchups as well, truly depends on is the health of Leonard. The Spurs go as Leonard goes. With the absence of Tony Parker already calculated in due to injury, losing Leonard for the rest of this series could allow the Warriors to sweep their way all the way to the Finals.
Who Wins Game 3?
The answer to this question cannot truly be given before the health status of Leonard is known. But on the assumption that he is out for Game 3, the Warriors will go on the road in San Antonio and secure their eleventh straight postseason victory.
Should Leonard be able to lace them up, the Spurs for sure have a shot to make things interesting. But at this point, smart money would expect Golden State to lead this series three games to none.
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