All-Time San Antonio Spurs vs. All-Time Golden State Warriors

Our next match features two powerhouse franchises who have won the past two NBA championships. They’ve taken different approaches in earning their nine combined rings: Golden State has had intermittent periods of success spread out over 70 years of franchise history, while San Antonio has had one sustained run of dominance, where they secured five championships over 16 seasons. Who has the advantage in the highly anticipated matchup between the All-Time San Antonio Spurs vs. All-Time Golden State Warriors?

All-Time San Antonio Spurs vs. All-Time Golden State Warriors

Key Matchups

Golden State’s firepower vs. San Antonio’s defensive might: Golden State is one of the most explosive teams in our tournament, with ALL FIVE STARTERS having led the league in scoring at some point in their Warriors career, along with a sixth scoring champion off the bench from the league’s earliest days (Joe Fulks). They feature perhaps the greatest shooter in NBA history (Stephen Curry), along with arguably the greatest inside scorer ever (Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 41.5 PPG in his six seasons with the franchise). They have a wealth of shooting depth beyond Curry (Paul Arizin, Rick Barry, Chris Mullin), and a Hall-of-Fame offensive (Neil Johnston) and defensive (Nate Thurmond) big man to support Chamberlain. They also have perimeter playmakers (Curry, Barry, Tim Hardaway, Guy Rodgers) who will facilitate ball movement and offensive flow. No team can contain this group, but San Antonio is better equipped than most to withstand a potential offensive onslaught. Tim Duncan and David Robinson are two of the greatest defensive big men in NBA history; in their six seasons together, the Spurs ranked first (2 times), second (3 times), and third (one time) in defensive rating. Kawhi Leonard has developed into the best defender in the current NBA, and will see time on all of Golden State’s perimeter options. Alvin Robertson was the greatest thief in modern NBA history, standing as the all-time leader in steals per game and steals percentage, which will cause problems for Curry and his sometimes loose ball protection. Even though the Spurs have two former scoring champions on their team (Robinson and George Gervin), they must slow the games down to have a chance to win this series.

Battle of the Big Men: Duncan and Robinson were perhaps the greatest ‘Twin Towers’ duo in NBA history, capturing two titles together and dominating opponents defensively. While those two are used to playing with one another, Chamberlain and Johnston will have to adjust to each other’s tendencies. Chamberlain will also have to adjust to playing with a team with so much perimeter firepower; his later days with the 76ers and the Lakers proved he could take a back seat, but the Warriors version of Wilt was a one-man wrecking crew who was the most dominant offensive force in league history. He won’t get the ball on as many possessions as he’s used to, and will have to help set up his teammates for easier baskets.

Tim  Duncan and David  Robinson
The Admiral faces The Big Dipper – two of the most athletic centers ever
Copyright © Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com

Biggest Mismatches

Golden State’s three-point shooting advantage: The Warriors have the ability to blow opponents away from long range. Curry, Arizin, Barry, Hardaway, Jeff Mullins, and Chris Mullin have the ability to spread the floor like the modern-day Warriors team. San Antonio will be forced to play Chamberlain straight up without double-teaming, to avoid leaving these shooters open, though they are better equipped to deal with him than most teams. The Spurs have Manu Ginobili and Leonard as their best outside threats, but their other perimeter stars were more comfortable with penetrating and breaking down opposing defenses (especially Tony Parker and James Silas).

San Antonio’s coaching: Gregg Popovich has ascended to the top of the all-time coaching ranks. He has continually remade San Antonio’s offense over a nineteen year period, and kept them in contention throughout. Al Attles experienced great success with Golden State, but Popovich has a proven ability to maximize talent and get the most out of his players.

X-Factor

Pace: Though San Antonio can play different styles, they don’t want to run-and-gun with the Warriors. While Golden State will start two big men, expect them to utilize a few lineups where Chamberlain is surrounded by four perimeter players. Barry and Tom Gola can both initiate the offense from the forward position, and they have a slew of guards and wings to space the floor. Will San Antonio stick with their Twin Towers lineup when Golden State goes small? Who would Duncan or Robinson guard in this scenario? How would Golden State guard San Antonio in this setup? Speaking of which…

Golden State’s defense: While the Warriors are known for their offensive exploits, their defense will play a key factor in this series. Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, and Gola are their best defenders, and they’ll be tasked with slowing down San Antonio’s explosive frontcourt. San Antonio’s perimeter players will face less resistance, however, as Golden State’s guards weren’t known for their work on the defensive end of the floor.

Results

This series lives up to the hype. The teams go back and forth as both coaches make adjustments to their rotations. Kawhi Leonard and Nate Thurmond are both inserted into the starting lineups for defensive purposes as the series progresses. The seventh and final game goes into overtime, as these two teams prove to be dead even. Although the Spurs have one of the best defensive units in the tournament, the Warriors have too many weapons to contain. Golden State advances.

Golden State wins, four games to three.

Next Round

Golden State faces the All-Time Celtics.

6 thoughts on “All-Time San Antonio Spurs vs. All-Time Golden State Warriors”

  1. I’ll focus on the centers and forwards . Artis Gilmore was a monster while in the ABA. Was not the same went he came to the NBA. They used to say he was the answer to Jabbar. No center in the history of the NBA could handle Chamberlain. Robinson had trouble with Hakeem and as good as he was the admiral and Duncan both would have had trouble with Wilt and Thurmond. Gervin was that, the iceman. Real smooth. Barry was just a ferocious shooter. I’ll take the Warriors guards whoever they are. Front court with Barry, Nate and Wilt well I don’t kn I .

    1. Thanks for your insight. This was a really close match, and the hardest one I’ve had to choose so far. I think the Warriors’ offense would be impossible for any defense to solve, even one as good as San Antonio’s. I agree about the Warriors’ backcourt being superior, and it’s one of the reasons they advanced.

      1. DISAGREE. ALTHOUGH A LOT OF HOW THE SERIES WOULD END UP WOULD BE THE RULES OF THE ERA USED. ANYWAY.. WILT IS A FORCE BUT HIS MYTHICAL STATUS WOULD NOT BE ANYTHING TODAY LIKE IT WAS BACK WHEN HE WAS PLAYING A TENTH OF THE COMPETITION HE WOULD BE AGAINST TODAY. HE NEVER PLAYED A CENTER AS QUICK AND ATHLETIC AS ROBINSON OR FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND WITH AS MANY MOVES AS DUNCAN.. HE WOULD BE IN FOUL TROUBLE QUICKLY AS HE WAS PRONE TO DO. THE SHOOTING WOULD BE A TOUGH MATCH UP BUT THE SPURS HAVE LITERALLY 3 OF THE BEST 10 PERIMETER DEFENDERS EVER.. ROBERTSON, LEONARD AND DON’T FORGET BRUCE BOWEN… NOT TO MENTION ROBINSON AND DUNCAN… EASILY THE BEST DEFENSIVE 5 PLAYERS ON ONE TEAM OF THE WHOLE CLASS… AND GERVIN WAS A PROLIFIC SCORER… I SAY YOU OVERESTIMATED THE SHOOTING AND ABILITIES OF WARRIORS AND CHAMBERLINS IMPACT… SPURS IN 6.

        1. Thanks for your input. This Spurs team is incredible, and I completely understand the argument that they could win this series. This truly was a toss-up for me. Wilt was famous for avoiding foul trouble though (never fouling out of a game in his career), so I’d bet that he’d stay on the court.

          Just for fun, if we’re looking just at the starting fives, I’d argue that Duncan and Wilt would cancel each other out, as would Iceman and Rick Barry. I’d give Robinson the edge over Johnston, and I’d give Curry and Arizin the edge over Parker and Ginobili. This truly would be a great series.

          1. Came in here to say this:

            Wilt did play against more hall of famers than he would today, and no matter how athletic or skilled Robinson was, he wasn’t as good of a defender as Bill Russell, who used psychological tactics on top of his all-time great defensive acumen.

            Robinson was fundamentally sound and would not be easy to score on, but the young Wilt would wear him down with superior stamina – he played over 48 minutes a game one year! Also, like Chris said, Wilt never fouled out of a game. He averaged under two a game for his career – despite being the defensive fulcrum of his teams, especially towards the latter half of his career. It could be argued that the younger Wilt did not focus on defense as much, leaving room for the Spurs’ front court to flourish.

            The true matchup would be between Tim Duncan and Nate Thurmond – a defensive monster in his own right. The Spurs would have to play Duncan heavy minutes to stay in the game, because he was a better inside scorer than Robinson, especially in halfcourt sets. But this is where the GSW shine – they have Thurmond to rely on. The Spurs will have to eventually double team Wilt, because Robinson will not be able to guard him one on one for 48 minutes, and that opens up the floor for GSW shooters like Barry, Curry, and Arizin.

  2. Great points here – I think Thurmond would undoubtedly play a big role in this series. Wilt would definitely get tested by a fellow athletic freak (Robinson), but I have to make the assumption that he would stay on the court due to his track record.

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