OAKLAND — “He’s telling them how soft they were last night,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Sunday afternoon. “That’s what I would be saying.”
Kerr was sitting in the Warriors practice facility trying to think like Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Trying to anticipate how Popovich and the Spurs will respond Monday in Game 2 after losing 113-92 to the Warriors in Game 1 of this first-round playoff series.
“You better bring it — that’s what I’d be saying,” Kerr said. “I have seen this a million times, as a player, as a broadcaster, as a coach. You got out there in Game 1 and you hammer a team. You feel good about yourself. It’s almost automatic. They’re simmering. They’re seething. The next thing you know, it’s 20-6 (in favor of the Spurs) to start out (the next game) because human nature means they’re going to play harder than we are.”
Popovich’s Spurs looked old and slow during Game 1. They shot 40 percent, allowed the Warriors to shoot 54.3 percent and got outrebounded 51-30. “We know that there’s some moves coming,” Kerr said. “We’re trying to anticipate what they are, but we can never be sure.”
He can be almost certain the Spurs will change their starting lineup for Game 2. In Game 1, their starters were Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and LaMarcus Aldridge. That’s how the Spurs started the game.
In the second half, the Spurs changed their starting lineup. They began the third quarter with Anderson on the bench and Rudy Gay at power forward. Anderson finished the game with zero points and three rebounds in only 10 minutes on the court. Gay finished with 15 points and six rebounds — both team highs.
Here’s what Popovich said about Gay after the game: “I thought he was great. He is somebody they have to guard. We’ve got a few players that they don’t guard, which makes it very difficult getting shots and doing some things. Rudy helped us in that sense.”
Kerr said Sunday he expects Gay will start in Game 2.
Gay, 31, should help the Spurs score and rebound. He averages 17.9 points and 5.9 rebounds for his career. But, he probably won’t help the Spurs defend. He’s a poor defender — always has been. And they need help on defense.
Particularly against Klay Thompson. Thompson scored 27 points in Game 1, and made 85 percent of his shots. To slow him down, the Spurs may need to make a second change to their starting lineup, bench shooting guard Patty Mills.
Mills is 6-foot; Thompson is 6-7. Mills can’t reach high enough to contest Thompson’s shot. Coming into the series, the Spurs may have thought Mills wouldn’t have to guard Thompson. May have thought he could guard Quinn Cook, the point guard who started the final 16 games that Stephen Curry missed during the regular season. Cook is only 6-2.
But, the Warriors surprised the Spurs. Just before tipoff Saturday afternoon, the Warriors announced Cook would not start. Instead, the point guard was Andre Iguodala, who’s 6-6. Suddenly, Mills was six inches shorter than the shortest Warrior on the court. And he was a defensive liability.