NBA teams aren’t supposed to care this much. Not during the regular season, when games supposedly can be ignored until the final two minutes, and distinguished coaches like Gregg Popovich seemingly punt a game every few weeks. But on Tuesday night the Warriors showed something they’ve displayed throughout this entire historic season. They care … a lot.
They don’t care enough about their undefeated record at home to put players at risk, however, and that’s why Steph Curry (ankle) and Andre Iguodala (hamstring) rested on Tuesday night. The team wasn’t visibly affected by their absences in the first half, but their poor outside shooting gave the Hawks a window they’d climb through eagerly in the third quarter. Atlanta continued their push in the fourth, taking a small lead late, but the Warriors sent it to overtime on two free throws and eventually won 109-105.
That tells the basic story of this game, but the journey was much more intricate. It was harsh, ugly, difficult and labored. Klay Thompson had a horrendous shooting game, but made a tremendous move driving to his left, pump-faking, and hitting a step-back jumper on the left baseline to give the Warriors a four-point lead with 11 seconds left in overtime.
Draymond Green, the player whose profane screams were overheard during halftime of Saturday’s game against the Thunder by ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters, pushed the Warriors’ lead to four points about 30 seconds earlier with a desperation three at the end of the shot clock.
— Scott Strazzante (@ScottStrazzante) March 2, 2016
Thompson’s late-game redemption and Green’s miraculous (Steph-like?) shot were fantastic, and Andrew Bogut had his best offensive game (19 points on 8-of-9 shooting) of the season. But the striking quality of this game, and this team in light of how they pulled out that win in Oklahoma City, is how if the game stays relatively close, the Warriors simply won’t die. And the viewing experience — which is all I can really offer, for obvious reasons — is so unique in that no situation seems to dire.
- Oh, Curry isn’t playing? They’ll probably figure out something.
- Oh, Thompson is making 25% of his shots? He’ll make the next one.
- Oh, this lineup can’t get the ball inside and keeps clanking long twos and rushed threes? Green is coming back into the game. He’ll get everything sorted out.
It’s a natural reaction to watching a team that has gone 137-25 since Steve Kerr took over, but the record makes this all the more remarkable. Why not take a break against the Thunder after falling behind by double-digits in the first quarter? When is “not their day” going to lead to a home loss?
We can’t answer those questions because the Warriors are too deep, and they care too deeply. Every Warrior, from Green to James Michael McAdoo (welcome back), had “don’t let this one slip away” on their minds.
It’s obvious to everyone now that they want to go 41-0 at home and 73-9 (or better) overall. The way they play when they aren’t leading by 15+, and they don’t have everyone at full strength or performing as well as they normally do, tells us that both marks are within their grasp.
— After watching games like these it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Harrison Barnes is the highest-paid Warrior next season. The Warriors were crying for another scoring option in this game, and Barnes finished with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting (all the makes were layups and putbacks). That’s OK, but they needed him to make — and take a few more — long jumpers.
— Mo Speights was 2-for-2 on threes and 1-for-6 on twos.
— After getting out-rebounded by 30 in OKC, the Warriors grabbed nine more rebounds than the Hawks.
— Leandro Barbosa (4-for-7, 11 points in 17 minutes) provided a nice spark. Why did he play five fewer minutes than Rush? Was Rush’s defense that much better?
— Whoever designed the Seahawks uniforms must’ve had a hand in those Hawks alternates.
— Green’s reaction to his three was to throw his head back and forth. It was almost like a sideways Merton Hanks chicken dance, although Green’s neck isn’t nearly as long.
The Draymond Strut™ pic.twitter.com/zb1psw4dSI
— LOLKNBR (@LOLKNBR) March 2, 2016
— Green finished with 15/13/9 and 4 steals, including a highlight-worthy theft that he followed with an incredible save as he jumped out of bounds. I guess this means we can stop worrying about what he said at halftime, why he said it, and what Stephen A. Smith thinks about the whole thing.
Good heavens, how will the Warriors ever get past that enormous Draymond Green controversy from Saturday?
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) March 2, 2016
— Without Curry and Iguodala, so much of the playmaking falls on Green. As Jarron Collins told CSN Bay Area at halftime, Green was a point forward. Most of his threes haven’t fallen lately (the crazy overtime three notwithstanding), but the Warriors needed Green to have the balls in his hands tonight … while rebounding like a demon … and guarding any one of several Hawks. He played over 42 minutes. Maybe he is a robot.