The San Antonio Spurs were supposed to be the team that slowed the Golden State Warriors' inexorable run to the NBA title. The arrival of LaMarcus Aldridge, the continued transformation of Kawhi Leonard into a star, the veteran leadership of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan and the craftiness of coach Gregg Popovich seemed to add up to a formidable challenge for the defending champions.
On Monday night, the teams met for the first time this season in one of the most hotly anticipated regular-season games in years. And the Warriors won by 30.
The game was never really in doubt. Stephen Curry, who continues to hit shots that seem to defy physics, scored 37 points and sat out the fourth quarter.
Admittedly, the Spurs were playing on the road and without Duncan, who had a sore knee. But as Popovich said afterward: "It was like men and boys. They beat us in every phase of the game."
The more one looks at it, the more it becomes clear that while the Spurs are outstanding, the Warriors are even better.
The Spurs are 38-7 and on pace to win 69 games, which would be the most in the NBA since the Chicago Bulls in 1996-97. But the Warriors are 41-4 and on pace to win 75 games, the most ever.
The Spurs are unbeaten at home this season, and have won 33 straight in San Antonio dating to last season. But the Warriors are also unbeaten at home, where they have won 39 in a row.
The Spurs have beaten some solid teams on the road, including the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. But the Warriors' list of road wins includes most of the top teams in the NBA, including consecutive wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Bulls by more than 30 points last week.
The Spurs are shooting 38.4 percent from 3-point range. That is second in the league — to the Warriors. Golden State is at 42.4, which would be the second-highest percentage in league history. The Spurs are hitting 2-pointers at a strong rate of 51.9 percent. Again, that's second in the league — to the Warriors, who are at 52.0.
Finding significant ways in which the Spurs outshine the Warriors requires a deep dive into the stats. They do have a better point differential than the Warriors, winning games by 13.5 points on average to Golden State's 12.5. Their defense remains smothering, the only one in the league to surrender less than a point per possession. And of course the playoffs can throw up surprises as teams focus strictly on one opponent for multiple games.
But overall, the numbers make disheartening reading for Spurs fans. The 2015-16 Spurs are great, one of the best teams in years. But they have the misfortune of playing in a season when their top rival is, for the moment, simply better.
Griffin hurts hand in scrap
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin injured his right hand throwing a punch during an altercation with a member of the team's traveling party over the weekend and will be sidelined a few more weeks. The equipment staff member involved in the altercation has not been fired, a team spokesman said. The NBA's security unit is looking into the incident.
Contributing: Los Angeles Times