Spurs: Best Bet to Beat the Golden State Warriors?

Last season, it felt like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs were shaking up to be a great long-term rivalry. Unfortunately, Spurs star Kawhi Leonard got injured in the Western Conference Finals, allowing Golden State to sweep them.

This season feels different, though, because the Warriors (43-13) return everybody from a team that went 16-1 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, San Antonio (35-22) has experienced a little bit of turmoil.

Nevertheless, it feels like the Spurs are being overlooked as a team that could potentially dethrone Golden State. This is especially the case after they lost 122-105 this weekend against their rivals.

But then again, we also have to account for the fact that the Spurs are playing without Leonard, starting point guard Dejounte Murray, and franchise stalwart Tony Parker.

And given the Spurs’ system, they must be given credit for being a threat to the Warriors. That said, let’s discuss why San Antonio should still be considered a team that could topple the Warriors’ dynasty.

San Antonio doesn’t Make Mistakes

Golden State is well known for going on big runs that crush their opponents. Such was the case against the Spurs in the third quarter of the recent game.

But the difference between the Warriors’ run in this case, versus against other teams, is that San Antonio was merely missing key players – not making blunders.

Even Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised San Antonio for their lack of mistakes and great execution.

“They just execute all game,” said Kerr. “They just don’t make many mistakes. Every cut is a hard cut. Every time they catch the ball, they’re in an attack mode, and so they’re constantly putting pressure on you.

“They are who they are. You know what’s coming, but you know they’re gonna stay consistent, and here they are in third place in the West without Kawhi all year.”

San Antonio’s execution was in full force on Saturday. They dished out 30 assists compared to just 10 turnovers, good for a 3:1 ratio.

“No matter who’s out of the lineup, who’s in the lineup, they just never get away from who they are,” Warriors forward Draymond Green explained.

“They always defend. They don’t beat themselves. You have to beat them. When you make mistakes, they make you pay — and that’s no matter who they have in the lineup, which makes a difference, and it makes them tough.”

The Spurs Capitalize on Mistakes, which should Scare Golden State

gregg-popovich-lebronGreat football teams are able to turn opponents’ turnovers into offense. Such is the case with the Spurs too, who make opposing teams pay for mistakes.

“When you make mistakes, they make you pay,” said Green.

This is more than just a general statement from Green. It also describes a potential worry for the Warriors if they meet a healthy San Antonio in the payoffs.

Kerr’s biggest gripe with his team in past years has been their tendency to bunch turnovers. In fact, this is usually the only way that other teams stand a chance of beating the highly talented Warriors.

Golden State plays a fast-paced game that requires quick decisions in passing. And this style has them turning the ball over at a rapid rate of 16 per game, which is second-worst in the league.

This isn’t a new issue for the Warriors either, because they ranked 11th out of 16th among 2017 playoff teams in turnovers per game.

Imagine a scenario where Golden State can’t clean up their turnovers by this year’s postseason, and they run into the Spurs. San Antonio may not have as many superstars as the Warriors, but they can make up for this by punishing Golden State for their mistakes.

San Antonio is Good at Adapting

The toughest thing about playing the Warriors is how many different looks they can throw at opponents. This creates a situation where opposing teams have trouble defending the various lineups that Golden State trots out.

But one team that can deal with this is San Antonio. Their roster and team philosophy is predicated on being able to adapt to whatever opponents throw out. Warriors forward David West, who played for San Antonio from 2015-16, discussed this aspect of the Spurs.

“It’s a high-information environment, in terms of basketball stuff, life stuff,” West explained. “It’s a very tight-knit organization and group of people.”

This tight-knit group has earned praise from Kerr, who’s called San Antonio the best basketball franchise for the past 20 years. And much of this can be attributed to coach Gregg Popovich, who’s won 5 NBA championships during this span.

Kawhi Leonard Has to be Healthy

kawhi-leonardSan Antonio has a very effective “next man up” philosophy that calls on everybody to step up when needed. This has helped San Antonio stay within striking distance in the standings, despite their best player been out with a long-term quad injury.

But everything we’ve covered up to this point has little bearing on the Spurs beating Golden State if Leonard can’t play.

The main problem here is that Leonard provides the type of scoring power San Antonio needs to hang with the Warriors. As shown in last year’s Western Conference Finals, the Spurs just don’t have the firepower to keep up when Leonard isn’t playing.

As it stands now, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are drawing the most attention as far as contenders in the West. But even these two talent-laden teams could have trouble stopping Golden State from making their fourth-straight appearance in the NBA Finals.

That said, perhaps it’s the Spurs who had the best chance to win based on their discipline and adaptability. But again, the only chance they have in the playoffs is if their team is healthy.

2018 Spurs Futures – Courtesy of GTBets

Odds to Win 2018 Western Conference Title

  • Golden State -325
  • Houston +375
  • Oklahoma City +1400
  • San Antonio +1400
  • Minnesota +2500
  • Portland +10000
  • Denver +15000

Odds to Win 2018 NBA Championship

  • Golden State -230
  • Houston +475
  • Cleveland +750
  • Boston +800
  • Oklahoma City +2500
  • Toronto +2500
  • San Antonio +3000
  • Milwaukee +5000
  • Minnesota +6000

Taking everything into account, San Antonio may currently be a value bet to win both the West and NBA title. They’re undervalued right now, because Leonard has been injured for weeks. But if he gets healthy in time for the playoffs, then San Antonio becomes a legitimate threat.

Can Dwyane Wade Help Miami Make the 2018 Playoffs?

dwyane-wade-heat-2018The Cleveland Cavaliers recently sent shooting guard Dwayne Wade to the Miami Heat in a trade deadline deal. The Cavs only received a heavily protected second-round pick in return.

Many believe that this deal was done as a favor to Wade, because Cleveland picked up three guards at the deadline. And it’s likely that Wade’s minutes would’ve been squeezed by these younger players.

The 36-year-old didn’t fit into Cleveland’s plans to get younger and more athletic. But he’s happy to be back in Miami, where he’s now spent 14 of his 15 professional seasons.

The Heat can really use Wade’s services right now as well. The team lost Dion Waiters to ankle surgery in late January. Waiters was having a solid season, averaging 14.3 PPG and 3.8 APG before being shut down for the year.

The team also has Wayne Ellington (11.2 PPG) playing backup two-guard. But they don’t have any depth at this position beyond Ellington.

Given that Miami (30-26) is currently sitting in seventh in the Eastern Conference, they’re a serious contender to make the playoffs. But nothing is a given right now, with the Philadelphia 76ers (28-25) and Detroit Pistons (27-27) also hunting for a postseason berth.

That said, let’s discuss if Wade furthers the team’s goals of making the playoffs, or if this is his last ride into the sunset of a Hall of Fame career.

Wade Brings Energy to Debut

Wade played his first game for Miami on Friday night. The 15-year veteran came off the bench amid chants of “We want Wade!” His first play involved getting a defensive rebound, then assisting to Hassan Whiteside’s dunk.

dwyane-wade-heat-2018-2Nobody will describe Wade’s first performance back in town as efficient. He contributed 3 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in 22 minutes. But he did help them beat the Milwaukee Bucks 91-85.

“Great energy in the building,” Wade told ESPN. “When I went out to warm up, it was definitely a playoff atmosphere. The crowd was amazing. I missed this crowd.”

Whiteside also felt like the game against the Bucks had a different energy than a normal regular season contest.

“It felt like a playoff game,” said Whiteside, who grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 12 points. “The fans were in an uproar. It felt like a playoff game, and Miami was just rocking. It hadn’t felt like that in a while here.”

Wade is the Heat’s all-time leader in points, assists, steals, and games played. So it’s no wonder why Miami fans are excited to see him back in town.

He left the team for free agency after signing a big deal in Chicago. He then agreed to a buyout with the Bulls, before signing with Cleveland in the offseason. Now he’s back at the place where it all started.

Heat Coach Surprised to Have Wade Back

Head coach Eric Spoelstra has spent plenty of time with Wade, having coached him for years. And he was surprised when Miami president Pat Riley floated the possibility of bringing the 12-time All-Star back.

Riley mentioned how they could acquire both Luke Babbit and Dwayne. And the coach was actually puzzled at the latter mention.

“What?” asked Spoelstra. “Dwyane who?”

Riley continued to tell him that Wade could soon be available, given that Cleveland was planning to make some major moves.

“My only response was, ‘Let’s go, let’s do it.’ But it was probably not something any of us foresaw two weeks ago,” said Spoelstra. “Crazy things happen in this league, so it just absolutely felt like perfect timing for both parties, and it was actually surreal how quickly it came about.”

Wade Happy to be Back

Although Wade was playing on a contending team in Cleveland, his heart never left Miami. He was ecstatic to return home in the recent deal.

dwyane-wade-heat-2018-1“I was telling [head coach] Spo after the game that I actually felt normal,” Wade explained. “He said he felt a little weird seeing me on the bench to start the game, but I actually felt normal. Once the game starts, it becomes a game and you get into it.”

Spoelstra liked what he saw from both Wade and the fans on Friday.

“Obviously it was special to have Dwyane back in uniform, back on our side in front of the home fans,” Spoelstra remarked. “It felt exactly the way it should. It felt normal. It felt like home. It felt like family. It felt all the things you came to expect with Dwyane.”

What Impact will Dwyane Wade Have for the 2018 Heat?

Wade is currently averaging a career-low in points (11.0) and minutes (23.2). He’s certainly not the same player he used to be. But even at 36, with 15 seasons’ worth of mileage, Wade is still a contributor who can serve as a serious offensive threat.

The Heat need more help at shooting guard with Waiters done for the season. And Wade comes back to his old team at the perfect time.

Nobody is expecting Wade and the Heat to suddenly go on a major hot streak. But he can at least help them secure a lower playoff seed.

Perhaps if everything goes right, Miami can move up in the East standings. They’re one game back of the 6th-seeded Indiana Pacers (31-25), and 1.5 games back of the 5th-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (31-24).

2018 Miami Heat Futures

According to our GTBets sportsbook, Miami currently has the 6th-best odds of winning the Eastern Conference championship. You can take a look at their odds of winning the East below:

  • Cleveland +125
  • Boston +200
  • Toronto +375
  • Milwaukee +1400
  • Washington +1800
  • Miami +4000
  • Indiana +5000

There’s a big gap in odds between the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat. And this doesn’t figure to close any time soon, unless Miami can overtake the Wizards in the standings by a comfortable margin.

With 29 games left in the season, anything is possible. Assuming Wade really helps the Heat, maybe we’ll see them move up as high as 4th in the standings, which would give them home-court for a first-round playoff series.