The second-seeded Warriors thumped the seventh-seeded Spurs 113-92 in the series opener on Saturday afternoon, putting both teams in a familiar position.
Golden State used a home win in Game 1 as a springboard to a four-game sweep of the Spurs in the Western Conference finals last season.
San Antonio, meanwhile, was drubbed 126-99 in Game 1 of the Western semifinals by the Houston Rockets last May, only to turn things around immediately with an equally decisive 121-96 blitz in Game 2 en route to an eventual six-game victory in the series.
“We’ve got to regroup, feel hurt, upset, kind of desperate,” Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said after Saturday’s shellacking. “We don’t want to go home 0-2. So we’ll fight as hard as we can in Game 2.”
After leading the NBA in scoring during a 58-win regular season, the Warriors focused on defense in Game 1 of the postseason. Coach Steve Kerr moved super-sub Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in an attempt to give the game a defensive tone from the start.
It worked. The Spurs shot just 35 percent in the first quarter and were held to 17 points, falling behind by as many as 14 points.
“The whole point of these games early in the series is to re-establish our defense,” Kerr explained. “You can’t win in this league in the playoffs unless you defend.”
The Spurs finished the game at 40.0 percent from the field. The Warriors held five opponents below 100 in the playoffs last season, and won all five of those games.
The Golden State defense was especially problematic to San Antonio star LaMarcus Aldridge, who was held to 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
Coincidentally, Aldridge also shot 5 of 12 in the Spurs’ regular-season finale against New Orleans, a loss that dropped San Antonio into the undesirable first-round matchup with the defending champs.
Aldridge averaged 23.1 points and 18.0 shots from the field during the regular season.
JaVale McGee had the defensive assignment on Aldridge at the start of the game and actually outscored him 9-4 in the Warriors’ first-quarter runaway.
Kerr declared afterward that McGee also would get the start in Game 2, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t committing to anything on his end.
Kerr switched to Pau Gasol at center in the Spurs’ turnaround against the Rockets last season, a move he also could make Monday, with the veteran having come off the bench in Game 1.
Popovich made it clear after Saturday’s loss that no one player was more responsible for the Game 1 embarrassment than any other.
“The first quarter, we looked like a deer in the headlights. Very disappointing,” he said. “I thought we were very prepared physically and mentally, but I was mistaken. That was the game right there.”
The series will shift to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and next Sunday.