After a long five days which were full of controversy and without basketball games, the Warriors mounted a 14-0 run over the final 3:15 to turn a seven-point deficit into a 100-93 victory over the Grizzlies.
“You could tell, both teams took that like a playoff game. And it lived up to it with the intensity that was shown out there,” said Draymond Green.
The Warriors won with rebounding, they won with long-distance shooting, and they even won with body language. They also won for their head coach, whether Mark Jackson wants to admit that or not.
“I don’t know,” Jackson said when asked about himself.
His voice, which boomed earlier in the press conference, suddenly got softer.
“They’re playing for themselves. I’m proud of them, because every single night they should be playing with a purpose, with a passion, with a commitment. To send a message. Not to anybody in particular, but to whoever’s watching. That’s how we go about our business. Because I’m going to coach the same exact way. I don’t know if this is my last game as a player, as a coach, as an announcer, you go about it like tomorrow’s not promised.
“I’m proud of this group. No matter what, I’m proud of this group. Just another game where you say, ‘How did that group do it?’ Or maybe, some folks don’t. Some folks might say this group should’ve done it.”
Since the Warriors are at home and fighting a team started the night 1.5 games behind Golden State, anything short of a win would’ve been a disappointment despite the obstacles the Warriors faced. They started the game without David Lee, and four minutes in they lost Andrew Bogut to a pelvic contusion. Sure, they beat the Grizzlies the last time they played — but that was after 11 straight losses to Memphis. Maybe they’ve finally figured out how to beat this big, plodding squad that gave them so much trouble in the past.
“The more you play a team, the more you understand what it takes to beat them. For us it was, you’ve got to be physical. You’ve got to make them work in the paint. Obviously they run a lot of plays through Zack and Gasol. Just try to make them work for every touch, every possession, every shot that they get,” said Curry, who hit a high-arcing three to break a 93-93 tie and followed with drive and scoop shot off the glass from four feet away to send the crowd into a frenzy.
“Then you’ve got to finish possessions. They have a lot of glue guys who come in and get that untimely backdoor cut or untimely offensive rebound. It’s always been close games but we’ve never been able to finish out possessions in those games, but we’ve learned our lesson.”
Another lesson this season has been in the area of mental toughness — specifically, not letting the other team know when you’re frustrated, desperate, or just plain bummed. Curry talked about his wife questioning why the team looked so glum back when they struggled a bit in early February. Curry took that to heart, leading the way on Friday night by running around the edge of the court and screaming to the heavens after made threes.
His teammates followed.
Mo Speights, a surprise starter who shocked everyone with 15 rebounds (on 7-of-9 shooting) and eight rebounds, brought a spark we’ve rarely seen this year. Green overcame a rough shooting start and an even worse defensive first half against “big brother” Zach Randolph to become the team’s second-most important contributor in the final two quarters, and he was fired up as well.
“We’ve had a tough time keeping our body language together when teams make runs like that and realizing we still have time left to turn it around. So that was kind of a change of attitude on the bench,” Curry said. “It’s a very physical game. It wears on guys, but as long as you keep a little pep in your step, you don’t give any signals that you’re done.”
— Curry on Jackson:
“We always have his back. Before the game, before we ran out of the tunnel, at the end of the day we’re the ones that’s got to go out and play. We control the theme of the rest of the year. That’s what you saw. Our support for coach and emotion toward him is always the same.”
— Green on Jackson:
“Coach is a guy we fight for and we’re going to continue to fight for. He’s given his all to us and we’re going to continue to give our all to him. This is a team and this is a unit that’s locked together. We’re locked in together. We came into this season together, we’re going to leave this season together.
“We don’t pay too much attention to the reports. Throughout the course of the season, stuff like that will happen. But one thing everybody must know and everybody should know is (the coaches) do their best and they give their all for us, when it comes to scouts and making sure we know everything a team’s running. We’re going to continue to give our all for them and give our all for coach when we’re on the basketball floor.
“Coach doesn’t ask much of us, he asks us to go out and play hard. He doesn’t complain about shots. He doesn’t complain about any of that stuff. The only thing he complains about is the defensive end. Get it done on the defensive end and play hard. We owe that to him to play hard every night.”
— Bogut will get an MRI on Saturday morning. No word on if they put him through x-rays (I asked). I did some research during the game to see how much time he could miss if this is a standard pelvic contusion.
— “That says a lot about the heart of this team, the character of this team, the will of this team,” said Green on the Warriors winning the rebounding battle without their two leading rebounders.
— “I got an opportunity to start,” said Speights. “I’m never going to be down on my team or coaches. I’m going ot always stay ready whenever my name is called and keep working like I’ve been doing.”
— Curry was perfect at the end of the game, but there was one great play he made that’ll probably be forgotten. After the three he hit over Randolph to give the Warriors that three-point lead with just over a minute left, he got the defensive rebound on the next play. He was toying with Memphis at that point, and he drove the lane and threw a no-look pass to Jermaine O’Neal, who missed a wide-open baseline jumper from pretty close. Oh well, Curry knifed through traffic and scored on the next play. Still, that was a great pass.
— The Warriors are five wins away from 50, with 10 remaining to play this season. They’re a game behind the Blazers for the fifth spot in the Western Conference, and both teams are tied in the loss column.