It’s hard to tell when it actually clicked. But at some point, Golden State got desperate. The Warriors decided they wanted it more. And they made the veteran, respected San Antonio Spurs discombobulate.
Golden State didn’t deserve Game 4. But took it anyway, 97-87 in overtime.
HARRISON BARNES: “I think the biggest thing with this team is we’re never going to give up. This team is going to continue to fight, whether shots are falling or shots aren’t.”
It was one of the most pathetic offensive performances of the season. The Warriors had 37 points on 30 percent shooting at halftime. They entered the third quarter down 62-60 and trailed 80-72 in the fourth.
Then Stephen Curry got going, bad ankle and all. Then Jarrett Jack found his strut. And Golden State shifted its defense to another gear. The Spurs were held to three points on 1 of 10 shooting in overtime.
After looking like they were dead in the water, the Warriors responded with a late-surge that changed the tenor of this series. This close to losing both games at home, Golden State now find itself tied with the Spurs heading into Game 5 of this best-of-seven series — and looking like they have a real shot at winning this thing.
MARK JACKSON: “I’m just so glad that a national TV audience had an opportunity to see exactly what’s been taking place in this area. Just a big-time win. This is a heck for a series.”
More on the Game 4 win …
MVP: Jarrett Jack
With Stephen Curry hobbled, with Klay Thompson smothered by Kawhi Leonard, the Warriors needed someone to get buckets. And Jack got them. It wasn’t pretty. But he got it done. He led the Warriors in spirit and in production in the fourth quarter, scoring 8 clutch points down the stretch. And he made the play of the game, diving in for a loose ball and calling a timeout to complete the Warriors’ most critical stop of the night.
MDP: Carl Landry
Everyone who was bad did something to help the Warriors pull it out in the end. Andrew Bogut’s early foul trouble was awful, especially that third foul. But he certainly redeemed himself. The Warriors really needed offense from Klay Thompson, but he managed just 10 points on 5 of 13, but he played good defense and he was froze out at times. Landry was 2 of 9 shooting with three turnovers. He made some key plays down the stretch, but 6 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes is not enough. Especially when the jumpers aren’t falling, he needs to get buckets.
TELLING STAT: The Spurs shot 35.5 percent and failed to reach 90 despite an extra five minutes. That is now 77 straight minutes the Warriors defense has made life rough for the Spurs’ offense. In the second half of Game 3 and the all of Game 4, San Antonio has shot a combined 38.6 percent shooting.
The Warriors centers, led by Andrew Bogut, have forced Tim Duncan into inefficiency. And they have successfully, for the most part, kept Tony Parker out of the lane. Manu Ginobili has been relegated to an outside shooter, and the Spurs supporting cast aren’t consistently hitting shots.
GREGG POPOVICH: “We’ve never shot this poorly for so many games. Hopefully it’s an aberration.”
THAT ONE HURT: The game was tied in the final seconds. The Warriors needed a stop, which they hadn’t been able to do the previous trip when Tony Parker dropped in a pull-up over Jarrett Jack.
Ginobili got the ball on the left wing and started to drive to his left. He then zipped back with a crossover for a step-back 3-pointer. Harrison Barnes buckled and fell to the hardwood.
Right here, Ginobili could’ve pulled a streetball move and threw the ball in the crowd like Hot Sauce. But Ginobili went for the dagger. And when he pulled up, Golden State fans had flash backs of Game 1 when Ginobili drilled the game-winning 3-pointer in overtime.
This time, Ginobili bricked. And Barnes, and everyone who loves him dearly, breathed a sigh of relief. Because he Barnes would’ve needed some counseling from Bryon Russell.
NEED MORE FROM: Draymond Green. Sounds crazy, right? But the rookie has come up so big for the Warriors this postseason, his quiet games now standout. He’s got to hit those open shots. He has to defend without fouling. He has to rebound. And he can’t just let himself get backed down so easily. Get in front. Flop. Go for the strip. Foul. Those easy baskets just have to stop.
He’s such a smart player, especially for a rookie, that he’ll figure something out if he’s on the court long enough. And he wasn’t that much in Game 4. But he has now become integral for the Warriors and not just a bonus. Without Green producing, Golden State basically just has Landry and Jack they can rely on.
COACHES CORNER: When Mark Jackson is putting together his coaching highlights, this game won’t make the cut for all of the moves that didn’t work. But it actually could make the cut for the make-up moves that led the Warriors to victory.
Down the stretch, when it mattered most, Jackson pushed the right buttons. Some of them were out of sheer desperation. But nonetheless, they worked. Before that, he had some head scratchers.
* When Bogut picked up his second foul, he should’ve taken a seat. Now, Jackson does that sometimes, leave guys in with two fouls. And most times it works. But this time, it was obvious Bogut was emotional and frustrated. He picked up a technical foul right after his second foul and was clearly in need of a cool down period. Even after he picked up his tech, he was still trying to get in the refs ear, needing to be held off by his teammates.
* Curry had a solid start to the game despite being clearly limited. It was obvious watching him he didn’t have any zig and zag to his game, and sudden bursts were out. But with the ball in his hands, he’s in control, and that was his best bet.
For his first three, he eased around a screen and got a good look at a 3. The next 3-pointer, he walked up slowly toward the 3-point line, and while Parker was bracing for the coming screen, Curry pulled up, and dropped in, the walk-up 3-pointer. He wasn’t moving well, but he was a threat because you still had to guard him.
Then he moved off the ball and it was almost like he wasn’t out there. And after Danny Green skied over him for a tip in, he came out. Jackson said he considered sitting Curry. Playing elongated stretches off the ball, he might as well have.
In the second half, the same thing happens again. Curry was back at point. In control of his movements and able to pick his spots, he managed two more 3-pointers and a running left-hand hook off the glass. Suddenly, the offense was moving again because the Spurs had to overreact to Curry.
But, sure enough, Jack came back in and Curry was almost permanently relegated to off-the-ball duties. Curry’s no defensive stopper, but he was clearly only in the game for offense in Game 4. But his potency was stripped from him as he was put in a position where was relatively useless.
* Skipping ahead a bit, the Warriors had the ball with 16 seconds left and a chance to win it. And Jackson, he’s been known to orchestrate a pretty good play, reverted to some old tendencies.
He put four players out wide and put the ball in Jack’s hands. It was like Monta Ellis came back for a play. No action. No movement. No touches from anyone else. Just Jack v. Parker. What’s wrong with that?
1. Jack waited too late to go, which is something Jackson consistently trusts his players to know even when they haven’t been in that position before
2. Jack played for the dagger step-back jumper, a low-percentage shot. He was looking for that shot, even though Parker pressed up and gave him the window to drive
3. No action, no movement or screens or passing, played right into the Spurs hands. Their halfcourt defense is stout (hence the poor offense by the Warriors before that point). If you think you’re going to beat them 1 on 5, that’s crazy
4. You have the “greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history” and they don’t even touch the rock? Why not start the play with Curry and run Jack and Klay off the screens? Or use the first 9 seconds to run some action to get Jack (or whoever Parker is guarding) to the spot they like instead of starting from halfcourt.
But Golden State was even in that position because of a few adjustments by Jackson that changed the tide of the game (or prevented the Spurs from pulling away).
* When Bogut got his third foul, Jackson went to Ezeli. I just knew he was going to run Landry and Green out there and we would see one of San Antonio’s bigs back down Draymond like Juvenile was coaching.
But he didn’t he stayed big. He valued defense and presence in the paint instead of some kind of hope that the offense of a small offense would make up for the lack of frontline size.
And when Ezeli was in foul trouble, he still didn’t try to put a big small forward on Duncan. He turned to Andris Biedrins.
* Whatever he said at halftime worked. The Warriors were a small Spurs run from reaching that point of no return. They couldn’t score to save their life in the first half, shooting 30 percent in the first half. The fans were down on them. The nation was probably looking at the screen like this is the team everybody’s been talking about?
But the Warriors came out with some energy and belief. Maybe he played Al Pacino’s speech from Any Given Sunday.
* He went back to relentlessly attacking Parker. Harrison Barnes was assigned to force Tony Parker to play defense. And when the Spurs took out Parker, Barnes went at Gary Neal. When the Spurs brought Parker back in and put him on Jack, then Jack was assigned to go at Parker.
Jackson even gave the ball to Curry when Parker was on him — at one point, when Jackson saw Parker had switched to Curry, Jackson was screaming for Jack to give the ball to Curry. But Jack didn’t hear and kept running up the left side, feeding Barnes to post up Neal.
There is a reason Parker needed 17 shots to get 17 points. It is extremely difficult to produce on both ends. The Spurs tried to help him by bringing help once Barnes (or Jack, or Thompson), made their move on Parker. In Game 3, that was enough to chase the Warriors away from that matchup. In Game 4, the Warriors kept at it and instead moved the ball when the help defense went to support Parker.
* The Warriors were much more aggressive on Parker and Duncan. I thought it was a mistake at first, because it opened up the drive for both. But it turned out to work. Thompson was going over screens on Parker, which gave Parker less space and comfort on that pull-up (knowing Klay was coming behind him). The screener still didn’t try to hedge the screen, just stayed back and guarded against the drive, giving Klay time to recover. Parker was able to get to the rim a few times, and he made a few jumpers. But he was hardly as effective as he was in Game 3.
On Duncan, Bogut came out as far as 15-18 feet to guard Duncan. The Warriors want Duncan to shoot jumpers, but not wide open ones. The negative from that is Duncan was pump-faking and driving. The Warriors bigs picked up a lot of fouls being too aggressive on Duncan’s jumper. Bogut, Ezeli, Landry, Biedrins and even David Lee (who Jackson said before the game he didn’t want guarding Duncan). And it opened up some weakside offensive rebounding for Leonard and Green, since the rebounder was hustling out to contest Duncan’s midrange. But in the end, it made Duncan work. Made him rush a bit. Made it more physical for him, setting a tone that allowed more contact down the stretch.
* This was a minor switch that probably went overlooked. But after a few bad inbounds decisions by Barnes, he switched to make Curry the inbounder. Makes sense for your best passer to inbound, especially when he can’t scurry to get open. The Warriors had no issues inbounding the ball on the last few critical fourth-quarter possessions
WHAT HE SAID: “When we can shoot below 40 percent — that’s probably unheard of in Warriors’ history — and win a game, it’s a pretty important step for us. A lot of times our offense dictates our defense. This time it didn’t.” — Andrew Bogut
FOR NEXT GAME: The Warriors have to push the ball. For some reason, as soon as they got home, they started walking it up. Unless you have a clear match-up to milk, that’s not a good recipe for offense against San Antonio. You’ve got to make the Spurs move on defense. Especially the bigs. Even if it means going 2 on 3 or 1 on 2. Jack very rarely advances the ball with a pass. And Curry, certainly weary of turnovers, has completely eliminated the over-the-top pass to Barnes, who’s had the step a few times. There is a difference between being careful and conservative. The Warriors don’t need to be conservative. They need to get out in transition. Make them dudes run, like they did in the first two games.