With Sunday’s loss, the San Antonio Spurs are 1-3 against the Golden State Warriors this season. More troubling than the wins and losses, however, is the fact that the Spurs have lost even while largely executing their game plan. They’ve dragged Golden State’s lightning pace down to earth (101.64 to 96.15). They’ve manhandled Stephen Curry and generally made it tougher for the Warriors to get into their offense. They’ve taken care of the basketball and worked the boards. All well and good and very on-brand Spurs. It’s just that, against the Warriors, the Spurs cannot freaking score.
The numbers tell a stark story of teamwide player hating. LaMarcus Aldridge is shooting under 43 percent against the Warriors’ interchangeable swirl of bodies — a percentage boosted by more than six points after last night’s 11-for-18 outing, the result of a strategic concession by the Golden State defense. Aldridge shoots 51 percent against everyone else. Tony Parker, who no longer can be counted on to reliably pierce defenses, is shooting 32 percent against the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard, 44 percent (down from nearly 51 percent against the entire league). Danny Green is already struggling with a career-worst 37 percent shooting, and the Warriors make him look like he’s got ricin poisoning (32 percent against the Dubs). Patty Mills has taken 15 3-pointers over these four games and has hit only four. Tim Duncan has appeared in two of the four games and has, for the most part, looked his age. The team’s lone bright spot, whole-octopus-eating savage Boris Diaw, did not play Sunday.
With nothing to fear from the Spurs shooters, the Warriors have set about strangling the interior. In the series, San Antonio managed to shoot only 50 percent from within 10 feet of the basket.
All of which is to say, against Golden State, the Spurs’ typically efficient offense resembles a sub-Sixers atrocity. San Antonio’s rumbling-stagecoach-like 108.5 offensive rating (third best in the league) becomes a pumpkin-esque 94.8 against the sitting champs; for comparison, Philadelphia has scored a league-worst 96.4 points per 100 possessions on the season.
The Spurs are sitting on 65 wins and — still! — hold a historically impressive 12.0 net rating. In any other season, they’d be the title favorites. But fate is fickle. The Warriors are the team San Antonio has to prove it can beat, and the only team that the numbers suggest the Spurs can’t.
This piece originally appeared in the April 11, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.