Ratto: Warriors can bounce back
The aftermath of this Game One if this Western Conference semifinal shows us two teams who managed in one sensational game to expose their weaknesses more than their strengths, if such a thing is fathomable.
And in doing so, have made this newborn matchup easily the most compelling of the postseason. Warriors-Spurs. Two non-ratings grabbers that steal the show from everyone else in the pilot episode.
[RELATED: Ratto -- Game 1 full of agonizing almosts]
Stephen Curry is now a fully fledged cartoon figure, so absurdly accurate (and so accurately absurd) in minutes 25 through 36 of any game that he is not only must-see TV, but must-tell-one’s-friends-and-order-them-to-watch-as-well TV. His 22 points at light speed of the third quarter Monday night is nothing that different than what he did routinely against Denver in the first. Still, given the backdrop (San Antonio, where the Warriors never win), the opponent (San Antonio, whom the Warriors never beat) and the circumstances (the second round of what has been in many ways a disappointing playoffs), he has taken his legend to even more improbable heights.
And with Tim Duncan ill, Tony Parker stymied, and Manu Ginobili nearly blowing the game and then winning it 42 seconds apart with two shots from identically ridiculous distances, we are presented with the series that obliterates all others for both import and entertainment. It is the matchup that excited nobody until it was seen, and now it eclipses Heat-Bulls, Knicks-Pacers and Thunder-Grizzlies in the layup line.
And if you think otherwise, or are a network executive, you are simply a fool.
In the short term, Golden State took a galling defeat. Nearly coughing up an 18-point lead in three minutes against Denver was forgiven because (a) the Warriors won and (b) it was Denver. But actually losing a 16-point lead to the Spurs is a potential crusher because (a) they spent so much energy and raised so many questions in defeat, and (b) it was San Antonio at less than its best. The three big Spurs were so much less than the sum of their parts for so much of Game 1, and yet they stayed close enough to be bothersome the entire night, there was just enough Parker in Thompson's absence and just enough Ginobili at 57:58.8 to beat the odds and the run of play.
Given all that, the Warriors, in short, may not get a second chance.
Curry played all but four seconds in amassing his 44 points, raising new questions about his physical condition. His ankles may be enraged, but he has not let on through his play that he can no longer serve, and frankly, the loss of Klay Thompson to a series of ill-managed fouls was more condemnatory. And Andrew Bogut is limited both by his own body and by the extended absences of Duncan, thus reducing his matchup value.
[RELATED: Instant Replay -- Warriors blow Game 1 in San Antonio]
But more than personnel issues, the Warriors cannot rest Curry even with sizable leads because they have not yet shown they can defend them. Curry’s explosions happen in the third quarter, remember, which mean that the Warriors are confronted with trying to hold a big lead in the fourth either with him playing because he is their key or without him because he needs the breather. And given Games 6 in Denver and Game 1 here, resting him down the stretch is no longer a sensible option. Lose the game with him on the bench for even a moment, and Jackson erodes his team’s confidence for good. That’s how important he has become.
Put simply, the Warriors’ grand weakness is not only depth, but youth. They have not yet figured how to close out a big game in an important situation, and the Spurs, who are not very young at all, have done so through years and muscle memory. Gregg Popovich could sit Duncan down because his flu was ravaging his ability to do much and because he had Boris Diaw and Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in addition to Parker and Ginobili, but Mark Jackson cannot sit Curry because so much of everything flows through him alone.
So yes, Game 1 was a dagger to the Warriors dreams, but not yet a killer. In defeat, they seem far less likely to be the victim of a sweep, because they did show a level of backbone their 15-year record in San Antonio belies. They have graduated to a tough out, which is the intermediate step to being not out at all. The second is the far more difficult step, one they may not yet be positioned to take. Losing games like this are infinitely more difficult to endure than an Andre Miller layup, and to overcome them requires more spinal fluid than merely a 65 percent shooting night can provide.
On the other hand, Curry is the single most compelling figure of the postseason without discussion or debate, more so even than 120-Vote LeBron James or Kevin Durant Working Alone. On the Golden State Warriors. Let that percolate awhile.
So now, it is Day Two, and the new question is How Much More Curry is there for the Warriors to use. I mean, now that we have discovered after Game 1 that the answer “all of him” wasn’t quite sufficient.