The buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper by Andre Iguodala did more than just push the Warriors’ record to 6-3. It did more than cap the leader in the clubhouse for the best game of the season, a 116-115 Warriors win over Oklahoma City.
As the Warriors look toward another playoff run, victories like the one Iguodala secured have psychological value. It was confirmation the Warriors can beat the best teams in the league, even when they don’t play their best. It will be a reference point if they grow into their new presuned identity as Western Conference power.
“You begin to establish a belief that you belong,” coach Mark Jackson said. “You believe that no matter who you’re facing, you should win. And when you talk about facing heavyweights, you can win no matter where you play. And I think we’re there.”
This game was lost. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drilled a 29-footer with 2.3 seconds left — erasing Golden State’s once 14-point fourth-quarter lead — to put the Warriors down a point and force the Oracle crowd to watch him holster his imaginary guns and scream about his greatness.
Doubt was ready to creep in. Criticism was making its way to the fingertips of the news gatherers and the lips of NBA fans. And now, thanks to Iguodala, the next time such is on the cusp the Warriors will have something to draw on.
“It shows confidence,” Jackson said. “We’ve got guys who believe, ‘We’re not going anywhere.’ I think at the end of the day what that does is it develops something. It prepares you for the moment. Later in the playoffs, as you advance as you move on. You know you can do it.”
It also validates Golden State’s belief they have added a weapon that can get them over the hump.
Some, like me, contend Iguodala was exactly the piece this core of players needed. He showed exactly that in the biggest game of the year so far, well before he hit the winner.
Having him as an option in clutch moments is a bonus.
“That’s why we’re so deep and talented,” Stephen Curry said. “That’s why ‘Dre was such a big acquisition for us because he has the history of making big shots and playing well late in games and down the stretch. He showed that tonight and showed why he is so important to our future and where we’re trying to go, he’s huge for us.”
More on Thursday’s victory…