Ragnar Carlson, warriorsworld.net From San Antonio
Maybe you’ve never been as excited for a basketball game as you are right now. Maybe you have. Maybe you’re not excited at all. Maybe it’s more like dread. Dread at the emotional consequences of Monday night’s murdered victory. Dread at what the Spurs will do with a new lease on life, with a healthy Tim Duncan. At another test of Mark Jackson’s strategic capabilities. At the thought of another big late lead.
That’s cool. Just know that the vibe coming from the Warriors Tuesday was somewhere in between. They didn’t sound like world-beaters. This isn’t a comic book, as even their bravado-borne coach understands. Golden State got beat Monday night. That said, this team does not sound beaten.
The Warriors took practice late this morning. It wasn’t really morning, more like 2 o’clock, but it felt early to all involved. If there was a dejected Warrior at that hour it was Klay Thompson, who was also the most frank in his assessment of Monday night’s events.
“I’m still thinking about it, yeah. I’ll probably be thinking about that game until tip-off tomorrow. We played a great game for almost 4 quarters, but you have to play great for all 48 minutes against a team like that.”
Maybe. Great for 44 minutes and halfway decent for 4 would have gotten the job done, and the rest of the organization seemed to know it. Stephen Curry said post-game that the Warriors had gotten too predictable late, and that a lack of movement on the backside of the offense had caused the team to struggle. Jackson wasn’t ready to buy that Tuesday, but he did see some problems on the floor.
“I thought it was more that guys were getting the ball and not ready to shoot or execute. When you give the Spurs that extra second, they’ll stop whatever you’re trying to do. Steph was so good, sometimes it becomes like high school, you know (He means it becomes like when he and Curry played in high school, not like when you did: a lot of standing around and watching. )
Jackson may have disagreed up front, but that last bit sides with Steph, and so does the videotape. In those 4 closing minutes of regulation, the Warriors offense looked like a 2-on-5 practice gauntlet: one man with the ball and one man moving, three men doing something like the lazy Vogue. That’s not to put it all on Curry’s teammates: down the stretch he was as much a spectator as anyone else, as Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry tried and failed to summon some of the magic Curry had left on the 3rd quarter floor.
Andrew Bogut wasn’t around to help, but he was available. Bogut sounded sincere in his respect for Jackson – “the main reason we’re here” – and his decision to stay with a small lineup through most of the endgame. As he has since returning to the lineup, Bogut did have a problem with the team’s defensive effort. “We can have scoring droughts, but we can’t give up 16 straight points. It’s about getting it done on defense [in the closing minutes] that’s the problem.”
Thing is, though – and this was at the heart of both the comments and the overall spirit from every Warrior on Tuesday save possibly Thompson – those last four minutes weren’t the last four minutes after all. After squandering a 16-point lead in what should have been garbage time, the Warriors looked dead in the water Monday night. Curry said as much, repeating several times that he was gassed in the first overtime period. It was the end. But maybe the unlikeliest development on one of the wildest NBA evenings we have ever seen was what happened next. The Warriors fought back. Every observer knows that when a team blows a big late lead, it’s a virtual lock to get blasted in overtime, but that didn’t happen Monday night. Golden State ran out to a 5-point lead in the first extra period and was in a position to win with 3.8 seconds left in the second OT.
There may be dread in Danville, but there was none on display at AT&T Center on Tuesday. These Warriors looked a little beat, and for sure they’re beaten up – David Lee was overheard saying his knee feels “much better,” but he is still complaining about its strength – but they neither looked nor sounded beaten.
Someone asked how it could be an easy bounce-back, not just emotionally but physically, after so many key Warriors logged season-or-career-high minutes Monday night. “It is for us. You’ve got to ask [the Spurs] the same thing.”
Curry pointed out that the team has been here – or somewhere like here – before, and recently. “We lost a heartbreaker in Game 1 against Denver too, on Miller’s layup. We know how to do this.”
As he did Monday night, Jack took the last shot.
“Things happen. We still come in here with our spirits raised. We weren’t supposed to be here anyway. So we’re just coming in here trying to put our best foot forward and trying to make the best of the moment.”