When can a loss be considered a victory? For the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers, storming back from an 11-point deficit in under three minutes to even the score against the defending NBA champions should be considered winning. Though the effort didn’t lead to a plus in the win column, it could be a harbinger of future victories to come. The Warriors, who led by as many as 24 points in the second half, needed a three-point basket from Harrison Barnes with 0.2 seconds remaining to overcome the lowly 76ers. Golden State now heads to New York with a fresh reminder that even a team with 41 losses has the potential to steal an unexpected win.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1) Congratulations if you watched the game all the way through to the fourth quarter. Your Warriors fandom will never be questioned. With the Dubs up 19 to start the fourth, against a clearly outmatched Sixers squad with the worst record in the league, the only drama left seemed to be whether the bench could hold the lead so Stephen Curry and Draymond Green could sit out the fourth. However, the Warriors’ execution came unglued in the final quarter as they were plagued by careless passes (7 of 23 turnovers in the fourth) and shot 7 of 24 to allow Philadelphia to come all the way back and tie the game. But these Warriors are the reigning champions for a reason: with 22.3 second remaining, they executed beautifully to set Barnes up for the go-ahead three from the corner.
2) Watch that final play again. Steph has Nerlens Noel on him. If the double doesn’t come, he’s taking Noel one on one. But the double arrives, so Steph instinctively finds Draymond in the lane. Dray then has two teammates open on the wings in Barnes and Klay Thompson. Dray sees HB first, passes him the ball, and Harrison hits from his most accurate spot behind the line. That’s a precision offense operating on the court.
3) The Warriors beat the Spurs and Cavs by a combined 64 points but needed a last second shot to beat the Philadelphia 76 D-Leaguers. It’s hard to blame a team this good for relaxing against certain opponents, especially with a big lead, but hopefully this game serves as a wakeup call. Steph said after the game, “We’re disappointed in how we played, but we got a win.” He then added, “We’ve got to learn a lesson about continuing to play 48 minutes.”
4) In their first game since being named All-Stars, the trio of Steph, Draymond and Klay combined for 19 turnovers.
5) Dray finished one assist shy of a ninth triple-double on the season with 10, 13 and 9. He admitted after the game that he was being “selfishly unselfish” hunting for that TD, which led to some of those wayward passes.
6) Rare stat of the night: The Warriors had 37 assists, 8 more than their league-leading 29 per game … and two free-throw attempts.
7) I feel a little bad for Sam Hinkie. He spends three years executing “The Process” by accumulating assets and high lottery picks through losing. Then just when the team is on the precipice of being decent, ownership hires Jerry Coangelo to be his new boss. Coangelo then immediately trades for Ish Smith, and with him running the point, the 76ers go from being a historically awful team to your standard run-of-the-mill mediocre one (3-4 in their last seven games). Now if Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are ready to play next season, and with another high draft pick coming this summer, Philadelphia could get good in a hurry. And all the credit is going to go to Coangelo, even though Hinkie is the guy who actually built the team. It’s not like Hinkie didn’t know his team needed a point guard, but trading for one to win a few more games this season goes against his plan to tank your way into becoming a contender. Poor guy. (Wait a minute. What am I saying? Hinkie forced three years of sub-D-League basketball on NBA fans. The 76ers have been an abomination on the court for almost an entire presidential term. I don’t feel bad for Hinkie at all. Forget everything I just wrote.)
8) Good All-Star thing: The Warriors get three guys in. There was a period from 1998-2012 where the Warriors didn’t have any (and the guy that was named an All-Star in 1998 went on to choke his coach).
9) Bad All-Star thing: Sting is going to perform the halftime show. Was no one else available? Do millennials even know who Sting is? I was born in the early ’80s and my only knowledge of Sting is that he once saved Bart Simpson from a well and Puff Daddy remixed his song with 112 in 1997 to create one of the all-time great tear-jerkers. (Honestly, play that song, think of Biggie Smalls and that ’97 Warriors squad that was led by Sprewell, Jason Caffey and Mugsy Bogues, and try not to cry.)
10) It was in February 2013 that Curry dropped 54 points on a Knicks squad that would go on to win 50-plus games. On that night in the Garden, Steph transcended from “star” to “super star.” Now there years later, Curry has surpassed even that lofty level to become a “generational super star.” He’s not just a great player anymore, but one that’s walking the path of an all-timer. And I think it all started with that game in the Garden. Remember, Steph wasn’t even an All-Star that year in 2013; David Lee inexplicably got the spot ahead of him despite being a lesser player. We’ve become accustomed now to Steph doing incomprehensible damage on a basketball court, but in 2013, we didn’t know he had that in him yet. It all changed that night in February. Eleven days after an NBA All-Star game was played without him, Steph made sure the basketball world took notice of the snub and shot 11-of-13 from beyond the arc. That night was the beginning of Steph’s three-point hail storm on the league … a storm that has yet to let up. I wonder what Steph will have in store this time in the Garden.