The Golden State Warriors finish the season with a flourish: beating the Blazers 99--88, having Stephen Curry break the all-time three-point record and finishing 47-35 overall. Good for the sixth seed in the Western Conference and a matchup against the Denver Nuggets.
The San Antonio Spurs walked into Oakland without Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker dressed. Patty Mills scored 34 points against a team starting Chris Wright, Mickell Gladness, Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler. Mikki Moore played 29 minutes.
When the game mercifully ended, streamers graced the air as if Dirk Nowitzki had fallen to the floor after the legendary 2007 playoff series loss. Fans were cheering, knowing full well the Warriors owned a chance to keep their beloved lottery pick. Stephen Curry and David Lee watched on the sideline, hobbled with season-ending injuries. Andrew Bogut was nowhere to be found, unable to don a Warriors jersey despite having been on the team since midseason.
That was last year.
This is now. Curry, Lee and Bogut were all in uniform Wednesday night and all played a critical role in reversing what was a forgettable 2012.
This wasn't redemption so much as something that was inherently possible the whole time. It was a matter of playing, not the play itself. That talent was there, and that's what made this postseason run, while surprising, much more predictable than the one in 2007.
David Lee, despite being mismatched against LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson on defense, annihilated Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard in the fourth quarter. (Thanks to Coach Terry Stotts for benching LMA). His assortment of flip shots and high-post ball-handling should fare well against an aggressive Denver defense without a dominant big man down low.
Andrew Bogut only played 17 minutes but his ankle was just fine on a crossover dribble-and-take to the basket. He even shot a right-handed hook shot for the first time this season (maybe). Those black socks he wears also make him look taller and skinnier than he is. A worthy attempt at intimidation, though I'll keep taking those weakside blocks.
And lastly, Stephen Curry shook off any lingering ankles issues, playing nearly 40 minuts per game the past two months and passing Ray Allen's three-point record in the second quarter. He obviously knew what he accomplished and exclamation-mark'd it with a fist-pump and roar.
Would it have been more exciting and climatic if he had done it last game? Capping off a barrage of off-balance three after off-balance three while simultaneously taking down the great Ray Allen in a win against the all-mighty Spurs? Sure. I'm a romantic. And most of you guys are as well, I hope.
Delving in the details and glamorizing the moment is a real thing. But make no mistake, those "Curry moments" are sure to pop up a few more times in the playoffs, even if it'll just be a round.
As for the Nuggets? It'll be an extremely compelling series with many subplots: how will Bogut fare in Denver's atmosphere? Is Faried healthy? Will Andre Iguodala chase Curry around screens? How do the Warriors match up against the length on the perimeter? All those are fair questions but we'll save that for another day.
For now, we can bask in the fact that the Warriors somehow managed to turn their record around in a very un-Warriors fashion. Success came and it came quickly.
They weren't as bad as their record indicated last year and probably aren't as good as their 47-35 performance this season. Realistically, their aggregate play falls somewhere in the middle but if you wanted to talk like some sort of snobbish, paternalistic heathen, go watch the Charlotte Bobcats. That's punishment enough for anyone.
We whined all season long, as fans often do, about Thompson's shooting selection, Jarrett Jack's decision-making, Mark Jackson's substitution patterns, Harrison Barnes inability to assert himself, defense, and even Ric Bucher's odd reporting
In the end, the good guys came through. They rose above the ashes of dim preseason forecasts and carried the "Nobody believes in us!" cliche to their first 47+ win season with a playoff appearance. Curry was supposed to succumb to ankle injuries—he played 78 games. The Warriors couldn't rebound, they said. Best defensive rebounding percentage in the NBA. Mark Jackson couldn't coach because "TV guy", they said. Jackson relies on three rookies and draws up an offense that revolves around its strengths and coaxes a perennial league-worst defense into an average one. And they'll predict the Warriors to lose to the Nuggets, as well. A team hell-bent on defying the odds will try to do so again.
Was that last paragraph corny enough?
Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets starts this Saturday at 2:30 Pacific Time.
There wasn't much to glean from what was a lackadaisical back-and-forth game against the Blazers. Stotts appeared to counter Jackson's benching of Curry with his own (Aldridge).
The most important news of the game revolved around injuries and not the play. Klay Thompson went out of the game in the second half with an ankle sprain after landing on a teammate's foot and never came back in. Festus Ezeli was also seen clutching his knee on the bench. The game was somewhat out of hand by then so it may have just been a precaution for both players.
Warrior Wonder of the season.