It wasn’t a pretty game. The players on both teams looked like they were finishing a marathon in tattered shoes. Neither squad shot 40% from the field or made a high percentage of their free throws, but the Warriors survived because they defended and won more 50-50 battles than the team in red. As their gift, Golden State gets another exhausting, painful game on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
The Warriors forced Game 7 with a 100-99 win at Oracle Arena, in front of a crowd that enjoyed every tense minute of a game that brought to mind battles between the Knicks and Heat in the 1990s. One player who would’ve found himself right at home alongside guys like Alonzo Mourning, Charles Oakley, Tim Hardaway, Anthony Mason, P.J. Brown and John Starks was Draymond Green.
Green finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, five steals and five fouls. In the last minute and a half, Green made two plays that summarized his night.
— With the Warriors up 96-94, the Warriors decided to give the ball to Harrison Barnes on an isolation (ugh). After Barnes missed a contested 10-footer, the ball soared high into the air. DeAndre Jordan, who had 19 rebounds at the time, was in position. Jordan would finish the game with 19 rebounds, as Green came up from underneath, leaped and grabbed the ball away from a surprised Jordan. Jordan fouled Green as he came down with the ball, and Green made both free throws.
— Jordan got a lob dunk, and Harrison Barnes was fouled and made both free throws. After the Clippers missed three straight shots, Matt Barnes made a three and Stephen Curry was subsequently fouled with 00.4 seconds remaining. Curry missed both free throws and Green was the one who tapped the second miss away from the Clippers. Ballgame.
Green was also the man primarily responsible for holding Blake Griffin to 17 points on 8-of-24 shooting. Not that Griffin was in a mood to give him any credit when asked to elaborate on the challenges Green posed.
“Just missed some easy shots the past couple games here. Whenever you have a smaller defender, it’s not so much the one‑on‑one matchup, just because they’re constantly running people at you. I’ve got to do a better job of reading the double teams and passing out of them, things like that,” said Griffin, who fouled out with 2:31 left in the game.
“We knew coming in that it would be an all‑out battle. It’s not going to be about who shoots the best, who can get the rebounds, who can have the least amount of turnovers. It’s who is good to battle to make all they got to make those winning plays when it comes down to it,” said Green, who made more winning plays than anyone else in Game 6.
A tale of two Currys
I think someone got the memo. Curry scored 14 points in the first quarter on 12 shots — two more than he took in all of Game 5.
“I came out aggressive in the first quarter,” Curry said. “You want to try to be assertive and be the one throwing the punches out there with what you’re doing on the floor and not being passive.”
Curry only made three shots after the first quarter and was a relatively inefficient 9-for-24 from the floor, but he had nine assists compared to only two turnovers. Six of those assists came in the second half, when Curry went from a score-first combo guard to what people generally consider to be a “true” point guard.
“We only had eight turnovers, which is about as many as I had myself in the whole of Game 5. So we’ll take that and try to carry that over to Game 7,” said Curry.
Mark Jackson gets emotional
There were some interesting coaching moves from Jackson in this game, as there always seems to be. He gave Steve Blake a well-deserved DNP-CD (Blake has had a nice career, but he doesn’t have the wherewithal to get past defenders or defend like he used to). He leaned on Jordan Crawford and Marreese Speights quite a bit early on, and both responded. Speights especially had a game to remember — 12 points, six rebounds and four fouls in under 12 minutes, as well as a technical foul.
There were too many isos called late in the game, and too many pick-and-rolls ended up with Curry getting trapped by Chris Paul and Jordan, but in a way this was kind of a perfect Jackson game due to its imperfection. The Warriors were trailing through most of the first half, and it took a ferocious defensive effort in the third quarter (the Clippers scored just 16 points on 29.2% shooting) to give Golden State a three-point edge headed into the fourth.
After the game, Jackson was more emotional than I’ve ever seen, and he effectively spread the Warriors’ dirty laundry across the podium.
“I’m in that state of mind all the time. I’m an emotional guy, so I’ve found myself in huddles ready to — my wife will call me and say you looked like you were ready to cry. I’m amazed that it’s me. I’m amazed that it’s these guys. I’m amazed that we were picked for this opportunity. I don’t take it for granted, and I want to let them know how proud I am of them and how hard they fight. Some folks don’t like it. Some folks don’t like it, and that’s fine. But the way that this team conducts itself, in spite of everything that we’ve gone through, all the lies, all the adversity, all the sources, I could not be prouder, because what we are doing collectively speaks against it. Somebody’s lying.”
Jackson gets at least one more game to make his case.
— Remember when Joe Lacob went crazy?
Maybe this kid is related?
— Andre Iguodala didn’t do much in the first half, but he had a three-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter where he nailed a 17-foot turnaround jumper over Jordan, grabbed three defensive rebounds and hit a three while drawing Griffin’s sixth foul. Iguodala flopped like a fish out of water on the play, but hey — in this series, a flop like that is as rare as a player sipping from a cup of water after taking a seat on the bench.
— Jermaine O’Neal’s knee was smashed by an out-of-control Glen Davis, and the impact knocked him out of the game. Unless the MRI says torn ACL, O’Neal says he’ll play.
— Is Paul hurt? It certainly seemed like his right hamstring bothered him throughout the game when chasing Curry around screens (although he did a pretty good job after the first quarter), and he scored a series-low nine points on 3-of-10.
— According to the Warriors, this was their first elimination game victory since May 10, 1987 (the Sleepy Floyd game) against the Lakers, breaking a streak of seven straight elimination game defeats.
— Klay Thompson played good on-ball defense, but other than his performance was forgettable. He missed his first several shots, finished with nine points (3-for-11), one rebound and one assist. He’s had a very strong series until Thursday night, so I’m predicting we’ll see him bounce back on Saturday.
— Speaking of predictions, I thought the Warriors would win this game 100-93. I was half right, and I would’ve won if I placed money on this game since the Clippers were favored by a point going in.
— “We are an excellent road team. We’re excited. We earned this platform. We’re going to embrace it, and we’re looking forward to it,” Jackson said. “I once played for an incredible coach, I’m not going to say his name, gave the most incredible pregame speeches. We had a Game 7 once on the road, and he gave one. My only thought during that time was as a player, we didn’t need it that day. I don’t have to tell my guys anything in Game 7. They knew exactly what we’ve got to do.”
Was that coach Pat Riley or Larry Brown? We may never know for certain, but we know that Jackson won’t spend the next two days typing up the perfect speech. We’ll see if he draws up the kind of gameplan that will allow the Warriors to pull off one more improbable road win.