The two best teams in the Western Conference, the 1st seeded Golden State Warriors and the 2nd seeded San Antonio Spurs, get ready to face off on Sunday.

The Warriors have had an easy path thus far, sweeping both the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, whilst the Spurs have won both series against the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in 6 games. Golden State have been missing head coach Steve Kerr for the majority of the playoffs due to multiple medical reasons. Although many have counted out San Antonio, there are still a few ways that they could upset the odds.

Jonathan Simmons needs to be the x-factor for the Spurs defensively

Jonathan Simmons showed his worth defensively when he held MVP candidate James Harden to 0-1 from the field and five turnovers when the Spurs guard was his primary defender. Arguably the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant all need to be locked down by Simmons and two-time Defensive Player of the Year teammate Kawhi Leonard.

The Spurs need to used Kawhi Leonard accordingly

Leonard suffered an ankle injury in Game 5 against the Rockets and missed the entire overtime period where the Spurs would go onto win after Manu Ginobli blocked what would be the game-tying shot against Harden. Kawhi would also go on to miss Game 6 where the Spurs held out against Houston 114-75 on Harden’s atrocious offensive night where he only notched 10 point and seven assists.

Leonard was a full participant in Saturday’s practice, and has been cleared to play in Game 1. Leonard is the Spurs center piece offensively and defensively and they need him healthy all the time. Making sure that he doesn’t aggravate his injury is paramount for San Antonio.

Veteran leadership from current and past players

Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas made it clear that he was receiving guidance and aid from Los Angeles Lakers legend and future Hall of Famer, Kobe Bryant before and after every game this postseason. Thomas’s Celtics had emerged victorious over the the Chicago Bulls in the first round and currently facing the Washington Wizards, with Game 7 scheduled for Monday night.

Once LaMarcus Aldridge started to get mentored by Spurs legend Tim Duncan, he overcame his slow start and credits Duncan for his recent success. Aldridge had 34 points in the Game 6 victory over the Rockets.

Bench unit needs to step up

With Leonard out in Game 6, the bench looked amazing. The Spurs starting point guard Tony Parker ruptured his left quadriceps tendon in Game 2 against the Rockets, leaving the Spurs without their point guard who they’ve relied on the past 16 years. This ultimately meant backup guard Patty Mills had big shoes to fill.

In Game 6 Mills had 14 points and seven assists. Simmons was also expected to step up, but he managed to do it. He had 18 points in 31 minutes of play. Rookie Dejounte Murray hadn’t been asked to do much in the regular season when he averaged 3.4 points in only 38 games. In the playoffs, Murray is averaging 4.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 7 games and 2 starts. In Game 6 Murray got 11 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. If the second unit can remain productive against the Warriors, they’ll be in with a shot of competing.

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