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LOS ANGELES – Mark Jackson probably believes he doesn't need to prove beyond doubt that he deserves to keep his job because the resurgence of the Warriors and the support of his roster are sufficient evidence in his favor.
In a reasonable scenario, Jackson would be dead right.
And yet on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, Jackson and his team went out and delivered an impressive and rousing opening statement in what amounts to a trial presided over by Warriors CEO Joe Lacob.
Jackson conducted a virtual clinic in calculated strategy, in-game planning and intuitive coaching, leading the No. 6 seed Warriors to a 109-105 win over the third-seeded Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers is widely considered among the best in the business. He's a veteran coach with an NBA championship ring, broad credibility and the comfort of job security. He also has, thanks to Jackson and the Warriors, a loss in his first postseason game in L.A.
"It's the best of seven and that's a very, very good basketball team, with outstanding talent and obviously outstanding coaching,'' Jackson said of the Clippers. "But I'm proud of my guys.''
Wiping out a double-digit deficit on the road, shredding the L.A. defense for numerous layups and dunks in the second half, while forcing the Clippers into ghastly mistakes, there a lot of reasons why the Warriors prevailed.
But the most glaring is that Jackson had a much better game than Rivers. Whereas Jackson beautifully massaged his roster, Rivers made at least two rotation gaffes that invite second-guessing.
By playing guard J.J. Redick too little and center DeAndre Jordan too much, Rivers essentially cleared a path for the Warriors to swipe a road win.
Redick was invisible when guarded by Andre Iguodala but invincible when Iguodala was off the floor. Redick's 12-point third quarter, on 5-of-5 shooting, was a direct result of Iguodala being benched with foul trouble.
Iguodala played six minutes of the final quarter before fouling out. Redick spent most of the quarter on the bench and did not put up another shot.
Meanwhile, the Warriors exploited Blake Griffin's foul trouble by tag-teaming Jordan in the paint. Jermaine O'Neal started at center, but Marreese Speights got much more court time. Speights then sat out the second half, while O'Neal worked the fatigued big man for 12 points in 21 minutes.
Jordan played a game-high 45 minutes, getting a one-minute blow in the first half and two minutes in the second. His productive first half (9 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) gave way to a second half in which he grabbed six assists but neither scored nor blocked a shot and committed three turnovers.
"He's like a young deer that has a lot of energy,'' O'Neal said. "And they're playing him a lot of minutes. We're going to send a lot of bodies in there. We're going to try to put him in tough situations.''
It was as if Jackson coached each half as a separate entity. After making liberal use of his bench in the first half – even Hilton Armstrong got a couple minutes – Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green were the only reserves to get significant time in the second half. And that's because foul trouble limited Iguodala.
"He did an excellent job of subbing on the fly,'' Iguodala said of Jackson. "I heard somebody try to say a knock on him is X's and O's or his rotations. Tonight it was almost perfect.''
It was close enough to perfection to knock out the Clippers in Game 1. No matter what happens in Game 2 on Monday night, the Warriors are assured of having the home court when they return to Oracle Arena on Thursday.
THE GOOD: The Warriors owned the second half, with Klay Thompson (team-high 22 points) making all three of his 3-point shots while David Lee and O'Neal owned the paint, combining to make 12 of 15 shots.
Lee's second half was remarkable: 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. He also used a couple crafty moves to draw fouls from Griffin.
Green, again, was indispensible. He finished with 7 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
It always feels like a bonus when the Warriors win despite off nights from Curry and Thompson, who missed 23 of their 36 shots.
THE BAD: The Warriors were sloppy early, falling behind 12-1 in the first four minutes.
Lee's 12 first-half minutes were abominable, as he missed several defensive assignments, committed four turnovers and was whistled for three fouls.
THE TAKE: When the road team comes into the favorite's building and wins the opening game of a playoff series, drama immediately increases. The Warriors won with mostly ordinary offense. They won despite 21 turnovers. They won because they played hard throughout and smart when it counted – and because on this day they had the better coach.