2013 NBA Playoffs: Round 2, Game 2
Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. PST
Where: AT&T Center - San Antonio, TX
TV: TNT | Radio: KNBR 1050
Buddy blog: Pounding The Rock
This is a goddamn series.
It's been awhile since I had the chance to write about the Warriors. As all three of my readers might recall, I've often shown an unhealthy level of turbulence between faithful optimism and resolute distrust of anything positive this team has teased us with.
Well, the Denver series got me past my trust issues. And game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs helped push my belief in this team further: they can make it to the conference finals. I absolutely believe it.
Yeah, the Warriors lost in horrific fashion. That 4th quarter was summoned up from my nightmares, and those defensive brainfarts deserve a much more vivid metaphor to portray their repugnance. But game 1 showed that this team belongs here, in meaningful games against teams formerly thought of in a different class. There was nothing particularly fluky about the performance of either team that would indicate it was a singular anomaly.
Well, perhaps the fluke here is the catalyst that was David Lee's injury. Those theories have been discussed ad nauseam even in mainstream sports punditry, so we won't hash over all of that here; I'm only bringing it up to emphasize the creativity and adaptability that I would not have characterized the Warriors and Mark Jackson with possessing if I'd only watched the regular season. With the reliability of Lee on the bench, the Warriors' ability to throw their opponents off just a bit with creative personnel choices was unlocked.
By going double-big with Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli to start the game, it really seemed to make San Antonio question their game plan. Suddenly the lane was shut off by two good big defensive centers, instead of what Popovich had to assume might be a much different look, probably with Harrison Barnes reprising his already-unexpected round one role as a stretch four.
The Twin Towers look was a gimmick to stymy the Spurs' early game execution. (Of course, the inverse occurred late in the game when Jackson went zero-center, which I argue was much more pivotal than the loss of wing-defender-extraordinaire Klay Thompson. No more of that, please.) But the Warriors played the rest of the game as we're accustomed to them playing, and just plain beat the Spurs until they beat themselves with bad rotations and bad late-game execution. I believe those mistakes are correctable, though.
And I'm sure they believe it. This team is sitting atop a fence with low expectations and zero pressure on one side, and high confidence and free-spirited, basketball-loving exuberance on the other. Yeah they blew that last game, but rather than think of it as having missed out on their only chance of stealing one, they can think of it simply as proof that they're good enough to win, that they let one win get away, and that they'll get the next one if they play their game.
Ultimately, my confidence in this team is induced by Stephen Curry, and the realization that he's probably a top-10 NBA player right now, and has been playing with that Unstoppable Baby quality that's only reserved for superstars and Marc Jackson. One might say, "Game 2 will be tough because the Spurs will adjust." And that might be true. But I don't think they can adjust to stop Steph. His offensive game right now is just otherwordly, and the nature of it is such that the Spurs can only hope to make it difficult and hope that he misses shots. That's what you want the other team striving for if you're a team with a superstar: that their solution is just to hope for a favorable outcome, rather than going out and guaranteeing it. I don't think you can gameplan for Curry-busting right now. He's just been that good.
And so, we enter tonight's game wondering what sort of creative wrinkle Jackson is going to throw at the Spurs; believing that Curry might just be the best player in the series, yet again; and knowing that, against all odds, the Warriors belong in this moment. There is no reason to think they can't repeat their successes of game 1 and contend for a win. If they did it in game 1, they can do it in game 2 — and game 3 and 4 and 5.