Jackson: 'At the end of the day we played against a championship team'
The Warriors did not have a defensive answer for Tony Parker in Game 1 after Klay Thompson fouled out. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Programming note: 'SportsNet Central: Warriors Edition' airs Wednesday night at 6:00 PT, taking you up to tip-off of Game 2 at 6:30.
The Warriors’ brutal and devastating Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals is one that is going to be remembered for a little while.
The Warriors blew a 16-point lead with just four minutes remaining in regulation and wound up losing a heartbreaker 129-127 in double-overtime.
[RATTO: Game 1 full of agonizing defeats]
The defeat calls to mind another harsh loss for the Warriors of a playoff past. Only the one Monday was worse. Much worse.
Back in 2007, during the Warriors’ “We Believe” run, Golden State had Utah beaten in Game 2 of the Western Conference semis, but let it slip away. They were up five points with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, but lost 127-117 in overtime.
In that game, Baron Davis turned the ball over and Mickael Pietrus missed two free throws, and that ended up being a lot of the Warriors’ undoing.
In Monday’s loss, there were too many errors, turnovers and missed shots to mention. The only question that remains is whether or not the Warriors can bounce back.
There were so many aspects of Monday’s game and afterwards, it seems impossible to get to them all. But let’s talk about four …
1. Matchups moving forward: Each team employed a matchup that caused the other team trouble. And it will be worth noting how each team adjusts as the series moves on.
The Warriors had great success by putting the bigger Klay Thompson on San Antonio’s Tony Parker. Thompson limited Parker for much of the night, but the game turned when Thompson fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
After Thompson departed, Parker went to work and spearheaded the comeback. San Antonio must still address how to free up Parker when Thompson is on him.
The Spurs, similarly, succeeded in taking Stephen Curry out of the game when it mattered most. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put the bigger and more athletic Kawhi Leonard on Curry and it took its toll. Curry missed his last seven jump shots, likely a combination of Leonard’s defense and the fact Curry played 58 minutes.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson is going to have to figure out a way to unleash Curry with the bigger and stronger Leonard defending him.
2. Rookie contributions: It is an incredibly positive sign for the Warriors that they are in the second round of the NBA playoffs and they are getting contributions from four rookies. That’s right … four.
Harrison Barnes, as he has been all postseason, was poised in the clutch, and hit plenty of big shots for Golden State. Draymond Green is taking on a bigger and bigger role seemingly every game. He was a factor again on Monday night. But the Warriors are also getting help from Festus Ezeli and now even Kent Bazemore, who was almost the game’s hero.
With the Warriors down one, Bazemore got a piece of a Parker drive and then converted a fastbreak layup at the other end to put Golden State up with 3.9 seconds left in the second overtime.
After that, Manu Ginobili hit his game-winning 3-pointer.
Yes, it was a demoralizing loss. But the Warriors’ first-year players are getting valuable playoff experience that will pay off down the line.
3. Splitter’s absence: The Spurs played Game 1 without starting center Tiago Splitter, but he’ll likely return sooner rather than later.
With Splitter not playing and with Tim Duncan sitting out long stretches because of a stomach illness, the Warriors were able to exploit the Spurs’ lack of shot-blockers.
Whether it was Curry or Thompson or Jarrett Jack, the Warriors had more success driving the lane and finishing than most teams have against San Antonio.
When Splitter returns and Duncan gets a little better health-wise, the Warriors may have a little more difficulty scoring off penetration.
4. Jackson defiant: After the game, Jackson was asked whether or not Curry might have gotten fatigued near the end, considering he played 58 minutes.
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Jackson answered that Curry was absolutely not tired, despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary. As mentioned earlier, Curry missed his last seven perimeter jumpers. Curry also acknowledged after the game that his legs were a little weak after playing so much.
But Jackson’s postgame answer was consistent with the way he’s been coaching the Warriors all year, and he’s not going to stop. On the one hand, by denying Curry was tired Jackson took himself off the hook for any possible error in coaching strategy.
At the same time, his unrelenting and unwavering support of his players has obviously paid off in the confidence department – and Jackson isn’t about to stop doing that.