SAN ANTONIO — It’s easy to see the impact of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson flying around the court and flinging in shots that often defy description and sometimes the imagination.
There have been nights in this Western Conference semifinal playoff series between the Warriors and Spurs that no special kind of defense could have stopped or even slowed down the youthful Golden State backcourt.
But if there is another reason that the upstart Golden State team has the series tied at 2-2 going into Game 5 tonight at the AT&T Center (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT), it is down in the trenches. That’s where Andrew Bogut lives and thrives.
While Curry and Thompson have gotten all the headlines, it’s the Warriors center who seems to have gotten under the skin and into the comfort zone of the Spurs’ Tim Duncan. The Spurs All-Star is shooting 41 percent from the field in the series and was a horrid 7-for-22 in Game 4, missing his final five shots and 10 of his final 12 when San Antonio missed an opportunity to take a stranglehold 3-1 lead.
Consider the following stats on Bogut:
- The Warriors are allowing 18.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court this series.
- The Warriors are outscoring the Spurs by 16.3 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court this series.
- The Spurs are shooting 40.5 percent when he’s on the court, 44.4 percent when not.
All of this from a player who was so frustrated by missing 50 regular season games due to injuries that he said he considered retiring.
If the Warriors hope to take control of this series, they’ll need to find a way to keep Bogut in the game. The big man has been effective when he’s played, but in two out of three games, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has fouled him intentionally and it’s gotten Warriors coach Mark Jackson to put him on the bench.
Bogut went 1-for-6 from the foul line in Game 2 and just 1-for-4 from the line in Game 3. While Bogut’s inability to make foul shots is a weakness, it might be one Jackson has to find a way to live with since he is the one who is disrupting the Spurs offense so much.
With Bogut clogging the paint and also pulling down 18 rebounds in Game 4, the Spurs shot just 35 percent from the field, 25.9 percent on 3-pointers and 56 percent from the free-throw line for their worst all-around shooting game since Nov. 21, 1997, the 11th game of Duncan’s career.
So while most eyes — and many of the oohs and aahs — will be directed at the flamboyant shooting skills of Curry and Thompson tonight, the real place to look for control of the game is inside, where Bogut has made his presence felt.