In the grand scheme of this second round Western Conference series, the Warriors are down 0-1 after Monday’s loss to the host Spurs.
But a pivotal question now faces Golden State. Was the 129-127 double-overtime defeat, punctuated by San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili’s devastating game-winning 3-pointer, evidence the young Warriors can hang with the veteran Spurs, or was it a back-breaking missed opportunity from which they’ll have a tough time recovering?
No doubt, coach Mark Jackson is leaning on the former.
JACKSON: “It was a great game for us, a hard-fought game. We’re a young basketball team that will be better at the end of the day. … I saw a lot of good things.”
But it’s hard not to think the latter, that this blow was too much to overcome. The Warriors, who have now dropped 30 straight in San Antonio, were up 16 with 4:31 left before blowing what looked to be a comfortable Game 1 win. They squandered chances to win it both overtimes with poor execution on both ends.
And all this happened with Spurs future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, battling stomach flu, sitting out the final 14-plus minutes.
Conventional wisdom says the Spurs — who haven’t played in eight days — kick it into gear and breathe a sigh of relief, having survived the scare, and get back to business.
But the Warriors say it was just one missed opportunity and there will be others.
STEPHEN CURRY: “We had a heart-breaker Game 1 of last series. So we’ve been here before. Obviously, you don’t want to experience that again. But we know how to come back. We’ve been a resilient team all year. We know how to turn it back on.”
More on the Game 1 loss …
MVP: Stephen Curry
He was amazing in the third quarter, ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and overtime, then found a second win in overtime, leading the Warriors on a 6-0 run that put Golden State in primed position to win. He played all but four seconds. It showed in his settling down the stretch and in defensive lapses. But the Warriors were sitting pretty because of his heroics. He finished with 44 points and 11 assists in 58 minutes. He had six turnovers, but amazingly, only 2 came after halftime, when he was perhaps most tired.
TNT analyst KENNY SMITH: “The key to his versatility is his diversity. He doesn’t live on the catch and shoot three. He lives in a lot of different areas.”
MDP: Jarrett Jack
This was hardly a typical Jack game. He was 5 of 15 shooting with just two assists and three turnovers. It wasn’t until late he was able to take advantage of his match-up with Tony Parker. And he had two critical blown defensive assignments, leading to critical 3-pointers (including Manu Ginobili’s game-winner).
TELLING STAT(S): The Good: The Warriors shot 51 percent from the field despite making just 11 of 30 from 3-point range. They had 52 points in the paint. When at full strength, they got what they wanted against the Spurs defense, something they were confident about before the game.
The bad: They abandoned all that in the fourth quarter. Shot 5 of 20, 12 of those coming outside the paint, missed 4 of 8 free throws, turned the ball over four times and managed just two assists. Some of it had to do with Curry being gassed. And Klay Thompson fouled out early. That’s two of the best options gone. Not even going small fixed that
THAT ONE HURT: It seemed the Warriors were going to survive after Jack drilled a step-back jumper over Tony Parker, finally, putting GSW up 106-103. The Warriors needed to play 29 seconds of defense. But on the Spurs’ ensuing possession, Tony Parker ran baseline off a screen. Both Curry and Jack chased Parker, which left Danny Green open on the right wing. Barnes, tied up by Boris Diaw (shouldn’t have been behind him anyway, concede the inside, protect the 3), couldn’t get there in time to help. Danny Green nailed it.
If that one, which officially erased the Warriors’ 16-point lead at the 4:31 mark, the same thing happened again. A Kent Bazemore layup with 3.9 seconds left put the Warriors up again. But on the ensuing inbounds, Barnes and Jack chased Parker, leaving Ginobili wide open. Game.
NEED MORE FROM: Carl Landry. He was OK, 8 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes. But with Lee out, OK isn’t enough. In the fourth quarter, when the Warriors went to him desperately needing a basket, he did not come through. With 1:18 left, he settled for a 15-footer over Boris Diaw instead of getting inside, where a foul is also an option. Went to him again in double over time, but he turned it over.
COACHES CORNER: Let me start with the good stuff, because I don’t want it to sound like all of sudden Jackson is a horrible coach. The Warriors dominated that game because, primarily, they believed they could. Despite all his underdog talk, he’s clearly got them feeling like they can win.
KLAY THOMPSON: “We are still on a mission. We can still come out of here with a win. This one really stings. We have to forget about it tomorrow. We are good enough to beat this team.”
He got the Warriors off to a great start with his two-centers lineup, starting Bogut and Ezeli. The Spurs, played without Tiago Splitter and started Boris Diaw, but Jackson still went super sized on the frontline.
The result the Spurs shot 39.1 percent, were outrebounded 13-8 and managed just two points in the paint. Bogut was dominant early with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 9 minutes of the first quarter.
But, of course, when you lose a game the way the Warriors did, the good is outweighed by the bad. And Jackson had a few whoppers.
- Stephen Curry was clearly exhausted. Clearly. He got four seconds of rest in a double-overtime game. That’s just bad management. Jackson should have found him a breather somewhere. Start of the first overtime would have been ideal. Landry didn’t play at all in 1st OT. Put him in for a minute, rest Curry, and go to Landry down low (though Landry hadn’t played like that was a great option). Curry needed a breather badly.
- The Warriors had breakdowns at the most critical of times. Mostly, their problems was on when to switch and who was switching. Twice they had two players chasing Tony Parker. Clearly it wasn’t clear enough how to handle that. Would’ve like to see no switching in that situation, especially when you need a 3. Everybody stay home. Guard the line. Let them run all they want on the baseline. Stay home. That would’ve been my message, anyway.
- Do I really need to talk more about taking the ball out of Curry’s hands? It’s been happening all season, and it happened again. Is it a coincidence Curry is averaging 12.3 points in the third quarter? I don’t think so. He has the ball in his hands. The first half has played out and he’s read how the defense is playing him and figures out how to attack. Then, in the fourth quarter, it all disappears. The odd part is that it happens right when the defense is now paying more attention to Curry. If you keep the ball in his hands, they have to commit an extra man. You take it out of his hands, they can just deny. The offense gets so predictable and stale down the stretch.
- Jackson should’ve brought Bogut back in. The Spurs had 14 points in the paint in the fourth quarter. That’s a third of their total for the game. San Antonio had 4 offensive rebounds in the fourth, 3 by Leonard (who at one point posted up Jack inside with ridiculous). Coincidence it happens when the Warriors play a center for a grand total of 2:35 in the fourth quarter? I don’t think so.
The Warriors especially needed a rim protector considering their offense was struggling. Thompson had fouled out, Curry was tired. Jack wasn’t hitting shots. David Lee injured. Your four top scorers weren’t scoring, that puts a premium on defense. You need to be able to stop the Spurs from scoring. I’ve been saying it all year, but just having a rim protector in the game helps, whether he blocks shots or not. It alters the mode of the opponent. They take jumpers instead of driving to the basket with confidence. That can’t be overlooked. Yes, Bogut struggles on pick-and-rolls. But not as much as the Warriors struggle protecting the rim without him in there. You can tell whoever is guarding Parker, Barnes in this case, they are on their own. Get through the screen. Tell Bogut to stay back in a mini zone and let them come to him. If Parker knocks down 5 straight jumpers with Barnes trailing himoff the screen, so be it. But that’s less likely than Parker getting to the rim and finishing over Draymond Green. At least Ezeli should’ve been in there. He played zero minutes in the fourth
- The Warriors’ struggles/inferiority inbounding the ball are befuddling. On the last possession of the game, Richard Jefferson doesn’t let the play develop, hurries it in to Jack. Curry never touches it. On top of that, the play is going away from the basket. Curry should not start from the baseline. He should start from the other side of halfcourt and go to the basket. He draws so much attention, the Spurs just might have to put two guys on him out high, which opens up the interior. Him starting from the baseline working his way up off screens clogs the middle from the beginning.
WHAT HE SAID: “I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow. That’s the truth. When I talk to him and say ‘Manu …’ he goes, ‘This is what I do.’ That’s what he’s going to tell me. I stopped coaching him a long time ago.” — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Manu Ginobili
FOR NEXT GAME: The Warriors can’t let the supporting cast get off. They have to stay home on Danny Green. He hurt the Warriors more than anyone, dropping six 3-pointers on the way to 22 points. Golden State has a propensity for getting sucked in the lane. The Spurs are an excellent passing team and usually finds the open man. And Green is making them pay nearly every time they leave him open. They also need to keep a big body on Leonard, who finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. He took advantage every time he had a smaller guy on him. He’ll probably get the assignment of chasing around Curry, so he can’t limit the Warriors’ leading scorer AND hurt the Warriors on the other end.
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: First, Klay Thompson fouled out. That had a noted effect on the game because Thompson held Tony Parker in check. Secondly, the Warriors went small, super small, and Popovich benched ill Tim Duncan the rest of the game. So not only did Parker start getting to the basket, breaking down the Warriors’ defense, Golden State didn’t have anyone in there to protect the rim. As a result, San Antonio’s offense caught fire after struggling all game. On top of that, the Warriors could not score. Their offense, again, resorted to Jack at point and the Warriors trying to run an exhausted Stephen Curry off screens. With Kawhi Leonard all over Curry, the result was Jack going 1-on-San Antonio and Golden State managed just 14 points in the fourth quarter.