The Warriors are now 5-0 on the road trip. They are 8 games above .500. They are on the lips of NBA buzz. All thanks to Wednesday’s 97-95 win over the defending champs.
In the final seconds, and with the game tied at 95, Warriors guard Jarrett Jack dribbled away the clock as guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson maneuvered off screens to get open. All game long, Miami focused on limiting Curry. Thompson became their focus in the second half too after Thompson lit the Heat up for 21 first-half points.
Paying so much attention to the Warriors’ shooters, Miami forgot about Green.Miami’s Shane Battier, helping out Wade, jumped out on Thompson, leaving Green wide open. Jack saw it and zipped a jump pass inside. Green, in one motion while in mid-air, caught it and banked in the layup with nine-tenths of a second remaining.
Here is the final play in the words of those who experienced it.
“Off the first (cut) I thought I was open. Then I looked back and Wade was on my backside. I tried to come off the other side but by the time I looked at JJack, he had already zeroed in on Draymond. Great playcall by coach to realize we had two threats to come off screen.”
“They helped a little bit too hard on Klay and Draymond was able to set the screen. Something that we’ve talked about all week because we know they’re a big-time show team. I saw him down low. He did the hard part: making the basket.”
“With the last shot, the coach didn’t point out who specifically was going to be taking the shot. He said we’re going to find who’s open and we’r egoing to make the best play. … Of course guys are going to go with Klay and Steph.“I just happened to be wide open.”
“I give Jarrett Jack a lot of credit. He nursed it, milked it, and Draymond Green did a good job of flashing and finishing.”
“Typically, there is always weak-side healp. They occupied that weak side and nobody saw it. Shane (Battier) made a read, but as a team we didn’t make up for that mishap. We just have to have each other’s back down the stretch.”
“Big play. Big time”
More on Wednesday’s victory …
MVP: Klay Thompson
He finished with a team-high 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Sure, he only scored six points in the second half. But though he stopped making shots, Thompson’s impact on the game didn’t cease.
He played great defense on Dwyane Wade (and LeBron James on the final possession). He was active and involved in other areas. He played with energy and displayed passion. It was a complete game for Thompson.
JACKSON: “As good as he was offensively, I was more impressed with his defense. Dwyane Wade is a tough task for anybody to guard in this game. But he stayed connected, trued to disrupt him and contain every shot. You can play that same defense and Wade will hit 40 points. We’ve seen it. Klay was awfully good tonight.”
MDP: Carl Landry
This seemed like a game Landry could dominate. Miami basically plays power forwards at center, which is right up Landry’s alley. He scored two points, both from the free throw line, as he missed all three of his shots. He had three rebounds and a turnover in 19 minutes.
KEY MOMENT I: Just over a minute into the game, Curry broke free and nailed a 3-pointer, putting the Warriors up 5-2. About two minutes later, Curry took Mario Chalmers off the dribble and drilled a pull-up 21-footer.
Miami was terrified of Curry from the outside. The Heat viewed him as the catalyst for the Warriors success and concluded that stopping Curry would result in cutting the head off the snake. Curry’s two early jumpers — both of which he drilled against good defense, requiring a peep a daylight to get his shot off — no doubt had Miami’s coaches saying “see, I told you.”
The rest of the game, Miami in essence triple-teamed Curry. They trapped him at every opportunity and had the third guy ready to help. The Heat’s treatment of Curry proved pivotal for the rest of the game. These two early jumpers made Miami double-down on their approach.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “It doesn’t matter where you are playing. If you win five straight on the road, that is impressive. They took control of this game. They played more consistently with more force and rhythm. They dug out a good win tonight.” —Miami coach Erik Spoelstra
COACH’S CORNER: The brilliance of Jackson’s coaching performance on Wednesday was that he didn’t do anything new. Same rotation with minor tweaks based on how guys were playing. Fewer minutes for Landry and Barnes, who were struggling. Big minutes for his key guys and more minutes for Draymond Green, who was playing well. But all in all,Jackson didn’t make any major adjustments to “match-up” with the Heat. He didn’t pull out any tricks to try to aid the process. That’s key for a few reasons: 1) the players are growing into their current roles. Putting them in different roles for a “big game” — such as Green suddenly starting — is doing too much; 2) it keeps things consistent, which is so vital for a young team; 3) it sends a good message to the team, that what they’ve been doing all season is good enough.
Spoelstra did the opposite, focusing heavily on Curry instead of playing straight up, and it cost Miami the game.
KEY MOMENT II: With just under five minutes left, LeBron James came charging down the middle, which had for a moment parted and rolled out the red carpet. Knowing James coming down the middle with a head of steam is a recipe for a poster. Lee wasn’t having it.
He sought to end that quickly, giving LeBron a stiff shove. Lee was no doubt going for the intentional, hard foul. But LeBron had already taken off, so Lee’s shove came while James was in the air. LeBron landed hard on his right side and got up favoring his right shoulder.
He stayed in the game. Lee got the flagrant foul. But that play meant something to the Warriors. Lee, a guy who rarely protects the basket, protected the Warriors dignity. His teammates noticed and it was symbolic of how Golden State was not going to be intimated by the strength and talent of Miami.
Not even two minutes later, Wade was injured as well. He was poked in the eye by a cutting Klay Thompson. That caused him to stop and tend to his eye, and while he did Mario Chalmers barreled into him. Wade sustained a strained neck and left the game with 3:11 left in the first half. He went straight to the locker room and didn’t return until the second half. He never seemed the same.
WADE: “No, it wasn’t an issue.”
TELLING STAT: In the second half, Golden State outrebounded Miami 18-17, won the points in the paint battle (20-14), forced 9 turnovers and held Miami to 41 percent shooting. And if you take away LeBron’s 19 points on 7 of 14 shooting, the rest of the Heat was just 24 points on 9 of 25 shooting (36 percent).
The Warriors’ defense took over the second half.
JACKSON: “We found a way to just be able to defend them, impose our will. I’m telling you. It’s unbelievable. … We understand that if we’re going to win games, we’ve got to do it on the defensive end — especially against championship-caliber teams. … The best player in the world made some tough shots. Those are daggers that can suck the life out of you. But I’ve got a team that looks at each other and says, ‘OK, let’s go execute and give ourselves another chance.’ Defensively was where we won this ballgame.”
SERIOUSLY?: The Warriors are now 12-0 when leading through three quarters. Undefeated. Wow. Golden State is really the team that closes out games, that does what it takes. Perhaps this floors me because I’ve seen so many Warriors games in my life where the Warriors would look great the first three quarters, then the other team would start playing for real and the Warriors would lose. But this edition of the Warriors, they have a distinct ability to grind it out, to respond when opponents start playing for real.
THOMPSON: “We’re showing people that we’re going to bring it every night this year. We’ve got a chance to be special.”
KEY MOMENT III: The start of the fourth quarter, with the Warriors up by three, Jarrett Jack must’ve felt disrespected he had Norris Cole guarding him. He immediately drilled a jumper. Then, two possessions later, dropped in another, putting Golden State ahead 83-78. He then set up Thompson for a midrange jumper.
Jack brought stability at a critical moment. And he brought offense. You just knew Miami was going to make a run. But Jack led the Warriors on their own run instead.
Even later, when James scored five points on 10-5 run, Jack re-settled things with a fade-away, tying the game at 91 with 5:06 left.
BEFORE YOU GO: David Lee had 22 points and 13 rebounds. And it felt like every point he scored, every rebound he grabbed, was meaningful. That is probably why Lee was a team-high +11.
LEE: “We’ve improved two things. We’ve improved our defense. We’ve improved our rebounding. We do those two things, we have enough offensive talent to give ourselves a chance to win.”