OAKLAND Richard Jefferson would not tell a lie. He was blunt Saturday when he said the Warriors will have to play better than they did against the Denver Nuggets a lot better to beat the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the NBA playoffs starting tonight.
The 32-year-old forward has an insider's perspective. He played for San Antonio for 2 1/2 seasons between 2009 and 2012 before being traded to the Warriors for Stephen Jackson late last season. He knows all the intricacies of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker firsthand, along with coach Gregg Popovich's ultra-structured system.
"They're a completely different kind of monster than Denver," Jefferson said. "It's apples and oranges. It's going to be a different kind of series, because the Spurs are a machine that just keeps on moving. The last (14) years in a row, they've won 50 games. Shoot, they even won 50 in the lockout season (2011-12). That's just absurd."
But Jefferson knows an upset is possible. In his first season in San Antonio, the Spurs were swept by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals. In his second, they lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games.
Do the Warriors have to play the perfect series against the Spurs? Not necessarily, Jefferson said. But he said they must play more consistently and completely and not at San Antonio's preferred tempo.
"You have a two-, three-minute lapse against them, you're in trouble," he said. "They're not the type of team you want to put yourself in a hole against. Denver is a team we felt like whether we were up 10 or down 10, we were always in control of the game. It was just a matter of us doing what we needed to do for a period of time.
"San Antonio's entirely different. Up by four or down by four, they're going to constantly try to impose their will on you. Our focus against Denver was to get them in the halfcourt game, but San Antonio can beat you in the halfcourt. It's our job to fight against doing what they want to do, play even better defense and make them play our style of basketball."
Jefferson believes the Warriors might miss the injured David Lee, who likely will be restricted to a few minutes a game at best, more in this series than they did against the Nuggets because of Lee's adeptness, particularly on offense, in a halfcourt set.
So without Lee, what are the options? Will the Warriors have to run more? And what else can the Warriors do to create havoc for the Spurs?
"We're going to have to see," Jefferson said. "We have yet to play them without David, so it's going to be very similar to the Denver series where we have to figure it out. We figured out a way against Denver without David to adjust our game Draymond Green played well; Harrison Barnes played well. If those guys can keep it up and we continue to get consistent performances from (Jarrett) Jack and Steph (Curry), we're going to be in good shape."
Jefferson, who has played only intermittently this season and logged just 21 minutes in the Denver series, isn't completely sure how he will help the Warriors. The forward hopes he can play a little, but if not, he thinks he can assist from the bench.
"I'd love to get on the floor and contribute that way vs. just a mentoring role," he said. "But whatever opportunity presents itself as a guy giving advice, I'm going to embrace it."