Programming note: Coverage of Game 7 between the Warriors and Clippers starts Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Channel locations)
OAKLAND – The deeper this postseason run of the Warriors, the steeper their emotions. It's only six games, but they've beaten some odds and backed their critics into a corner and, my goodness, they are enjoying the journey.
Their next stop, Game 7, is one few imagined these Warriors would make.
But that's where they are after grinding out a 100-99 victory over the Clippers in Game 6 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena. They won despite countless reasons why they might have lost.
"It was just about fighting and being the most aggressive team tonight, and that's what we did," point guard Stephen Curry said after finishing with game-highs in points (24) and assists (nine).
"That's who we are," coach Mark Jackson said. "And we've proven that when we play our brand of basketball, we're awfully tough to beat."
The Warriors played "their brand of basketball" only on occasion in Game 6. They didn't shoot well (39.3 percent, 29.2 percent on 3-pointers). They were outrebounded (54-50) for the first time in the series. They missed 14 free throws.
But fight they did, incessantly. This win – the Warriors' first elimination-game win since May 10, 1987 – was built less with skill or talent or proficiency than with blood and guts and sweat.
The Warriors, facing elimination, responded like a team full of Draymond Greens.
"They were the tougher team tonight," Clippers coach Doc Rivers conceded.
Los Angeles opened with a flurry, taking a 14-5 lead less than four minutes after tipoff. Already the favorite and the bigger team, they also looked friskier and steadier. They looked intent on ending the series right here, right now.
But the Warriors fought back to tied by the end of the opening quarter. And they didn't blink when they lost Jermaine O'Neal to a knee injury early in the second quarter. Indeed, the sight of O'Neal in the locker room, disabled, at halftime may have spurred the Warriors to greater heights.
"Everybody had to step up and do whatever it took to get this win," Curry said.
"Steph said he got me. Draymond came in and said, 'I got you.' That means a lot to me," O'Neal said. "They looked me in my eyes and said 'I got you. We're going to win.' That says a lot."
Curry missed 15 of 24 shots. Klay Thompson took 11 shots, making only three. Green was 4-of-12, Jordan Crawford 3-of-9, Harrison Barnes 2-of-8.
And the numbers didn't matter, not when the Warriors were scrapping and clawing over the final 44 minutes. After trailing most of the game, they took a 60-59 lead in the third quarter and never gave it back.
And now the Warriors are playing a Game 7 for the first time since 1977. The last Game 7 road win was in 1948, when the franchise was in Philadelphia.
"People have been begging to call this a rivalry," Jackson said. "It's series like this, moments like this, games like this that put you in position to really call it that way."
THE GOOD: Green was phenomenal on defense, harassing Blake Griffin into an 8-for-24 night before the Clippers star fouled out. Green found time to grab 14 rebounds, a team-high, and five steals.
Curry lit the fuse early, with 14 points in the first quarter, warming hearts at Oracle. He was aggressive and yet careful, finishing with only two turnovers.
Andre Iguodala picked his spots, but they were important spots. He scored 15 points on nine shots.
David Lee was a solid foot soldier. His numbers were not particularly impressive (8 points, nine rebounds) but he battled the L.A. bigs for all he was worth.
THE BAD: The shooting, for the most part, was poor. The Splash Brothers were 3-of-12 from deep, their teammates 4-of-12.
Thompson struggled to find his stroke, and for a while it seemed he might have to find it. He never did and it didn't matter.
The sight of O'Neal, their only true big man, going down was ominous. If he can't go, the Warriors will be hard-pressed to outlast the Clippers in their building.
THE TAKE: The Warriors played with a lot heart. It sounds cliché, but it was evident in their effort, which was vastly superior to their individual results. The whole definitely was greater than the sum of the parts.
This was a profoundly satisfying win for the Warriors, largely because they pulled out a crucial game without playing well. This is the kind of game that indicates how good they can be. It also implies that they continue to follow the lead of their coach.