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    Kawhi Leonard injury - and Warriors' superior firepower - snuffing life out of Spurs

    May 18, 2017
    Things have suddenly turned bleak for the Spurs in the NBA playoffs. AP
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    CHICAGO - For as long as I can remember, I have worshiped in the altar of San Antonio basketball, one of the few remaining bastions of excellence where selflessness and hard work thrive.
    But on the heels of an 0-2 deficit in the ongoing best-of-seven Western Conference Finals, I am ready to renounce that faith. At least this year, there will be no NBA Finals ticket for San Antonio, just a second round pink slip.
    I'm no fair-weather fan. I'm just a realist who don't always see things with rose-colored glasses. Sure, the Spurs are excellent, but the Golden State Warriors are simply divine.
    Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have been better than advertised, producing a combined 119 points in Games 1 and 2. Klay Thompson is quiet thus far but Draymond Green has been audaciously loud - 22 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists in two games.
    Golden State's defense, which is conveniently overlooked under the shadow of an explosive offense, has been devastatingly good.
    The Warriors have taken the edge off the Spurs' 3-point shooting by allowing just 15 makes in 45 tries, and they're making San Antonio produce more turnovers than a pastry shop - 35 in Games 1 and 2.
    That being said, the Spurs need more than just the proverbial wing and a prayer. They need a priest to administer the last rites of their playoffs lives in either Game 4 or Game 5.
    Without the hobbled Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are not the same team, like McDonald's without the Big Mac, or Gilas without MVP.
    After losing Game 1 via a 113-111 squeaker, the Spurs folded like Origami in Tuesday's (Wednesday, Manila time) Game 2, 136-100.
    "You have to believe. I don't think as a group they really did, which means probably a little bit feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use," head coach Gregg Popovich told MySA.com after the 36-point humiliation.
    In other words, the Spurs were in 5-D mode. Disjointed. Despondent. Demoralized. Dispirited. And ultimately, defeated.
    Which explains why a team so rich in pride and tradition yielded 136 points and allowed Golden State to make 50 of 89 shots and 18 of 37 three-point bombs. Giving up those percentages - 56.2 from the field and 48.6 from long distance - is not the San Antonio way.
    MISSING LINK. Every time James Harden goes to bed at night, there is a good chance he sees LaMarcus Aldridge in the back of his eyelids. Aldridge, as you know, eliminated the Rockets following a superb 34-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals.
    But after a solid 28 points and 7 rebounds in Game 1, Aldridge vanished in the Game 2 rout, scoring a mere 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field. L.A. passed up so many shots you'd think the ball carried the Ebola virus.
    "We need him to score," coach Pop implored during the post-game press conference.
    Supposedly Tim Duncan's heir apparent, Aldridge needs to be consistent and aggressive for the Spurs to at least compete against the Warriors. Right now, Aldridge is no Duncan, but he sure is Tim, as in timid.
    Lastly, unless LeBron James is drugged and kidnapped, the Boston Celtics have zero chance of beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Compared to the erratic Wizards, these Cavs are too big, too strong, too much.
    With nine days of rest and fighting a mild case of boredom, expect LeBron to come out of the gates like a thoroughbred in the Kentucky Derby and score at least 30 on Thursday as the Cavs will take Game 1 with fantastical ease.
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    Things have suddenly turned bleak for the Spurs in the NBA playoffs. AP
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