Thank you for joining us here at Golden State of Mind for another thrilling retrospective on the glory and legacy of the most powerful team in the history of basketball: The Golden State Warriors.
Before I begin to regale you with tales of splashery, I have a question: Do you remember the movie, “The Rundown”?
In the film, wrestler/actor/motivational guru Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a no nonsense bounty hunter named “Beck.” He’s sent to the Amazon to retrieve his boss’ shady son (who happens to be played enthusiastically by Stifler from “American Pie”). For mysterious reasons, Beck emphatically refuses to use any type of gun throughout the majority of the action packed film. That is, until he’s pushed OVER THE EDGE in the climactic action scene where he’s surrounded by heavily armed enemies.
As the storm of bullets and havoc rained around him, he opened his eyes like, “I’m going to destroy every human and flammable object in my path.” Did you see the way his pupils and biceps were ablaze with righteous indignation? In foreign lands, with his back against the wall, THIS AMERICAN ICON WENT BESERK.
The Warriors in Berserker Mode
Speaking of going “beserker mode” in enemy territory against all odds, it’s time for a little journey back before the Splash Bros’ first title. The year was 2015 and the Warriors were maturing before the eyes of the world. As the old saying goes, “Some times you win, sometimes you learn.” The young Warriors usually won that year (67-15 record), and the few losses were apart of very important educational experiences.
In the first round of the playoffs that year, the top-seeded Warriors of Golden State were up 2-0 on a feisty New Orleans Pelicans ballclub. “N’awlins” was led by Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Davis — this was the season he was crowned as the best power forward in the game by Hall of Famer and Buick enthusiast, Shaquille O’Neal. Hm. Interesting.
After a close loss in Game 2, Davis reflected on how close his team was to stealing a victory in Oakland.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Davis confidently opined on the podium. “We knew we were right there and we just didn't do a good job of executing towards the end of the game… We know that we can beat this team.”
Game 3, in the hostile territory of New Orleans, promised to be a testy contest for the Warriors.
In added personal importance, Game 3 was the first Warriors playoff game I watched together with my parents. At this time, the Dubs were only making their 4th playoff appearance since I was in first grade. I was away at college during the 2007 “We Believe” run, and lived in Asia during the unsuccessful postseason wars against the Spurs and Clippers. The 2015 playoff run was the first time that the family was back under the same roof, watching the Warriors chase the title. WE WERE HYPED.
With that history in mind, we were quite befuddled at the Warriors’ hideous start in Game 3. A frenzied Pelicans crowd awakened Davis’ previously dormant supporting cast, and they delivered a collective punch to the Warriors’ mouth with a 19-0 run spanning the first and second quarters. Ouch. As the Pelicans shooting percentage soared to 60% percent for the half, I began to concede that perhaps it just wasn’t our night. Here’s how crazy the Pelicans’ “others” went OFF:
- Limited Stretch Four Ryan Anderson, who was 2-11 shooting the first two games, lit Harrison Barnes on fire with fallaway jumpers to the tune of 11 points on 5-7 shooting at halftime. He would go onto finish with 26 points on 10-14 shooting from the field. I’m sure before he goes to bed every night he watches his highlights from this game and says “I’m the best playoff performer in Pelicans history.”
- Journeyman Norris Cole looked like the ghost of Bad Boys Pistons’ Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, draining tough buckets over Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green at the rim for 14 points at the half. He would finish with 16 off the bench on 7 of 10 shooting.
- Failed Lebron Clone Tyreke Evans finally living up to his draft potential and becoming a two way destructive force, balling his way toward 14 at the break. He would finish with 19 points, 8 dimes, and 3 steals.
In fact, after one Evans eurostep that momentarily banished Draymond Green into the Phantom Zone, the TNT camera crew panned to the delirious Bayou crowd. At this point, I resorted to my rolodex of veteran basketball fan idioms: “We just wanted to get a split on the road anyway,” “We can close it out at home in 5,” “Besides there’s no way we should be able sweep a transcendent star like Anthony Davis anyway, right?” Then the camera froze on one fan in particular and did a slow zoom.
Whoa…Wait a minute. Lets skip past the fact that the playoff t-shirt is a pure monstrosity (What BAG of cereal is that horrendous dark purple and crimson-burgundy color palette from?). Hold up! Is this dude biting his lip in satisfaction with the same glazed over, lustful expression, that a 13 year old WWF fan would emote once The Rock’s music hit back in 1999? At my teams expense?! Nah. HELL nah. I wanted vengeance. I needed our boys to have a“Berserker” moment.
The Golden Moment: The fourth quarter
After a dry third quarter where they were outscored by nine, the Dubs trailed 89-69 heading into the 4th. Social media was killing us for the lackluster play.
Warriors have NEVER won down 20 entering the 4th quarter in the shot clock era. They have gone 0-356 in such tries.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 24, 2015
My mother and I glumly sighed at the screen during the commercial break. Our frustration from our unfulfilled bloodlust was only barely tempered by our waning patience for the young team’s growing pains. I turned exasperatedly towards the Lil Caesar’s breadstick box for comfort food when my father calmly uttered, “They are gonna win.” My mom and I shot each other wearied, curious glances. Had he not seen the solid brick house the Warriors were building for the three little piggies? We couldn’t buy a basket!
“I can feel it,” he cheerfully continued. “These boys ain’t going out like that.”
Down 20. Backs against the wall in foreign territory. The rabid horde of Pelican fans shrieking with deafening derision into the air.
The Golden State Warriors unleashed a brutal, cruel, awe-inspiring 4th quarter for the ages. An interesting parallel: the Warriors usually detest offensive rebounding the same way that “Beck” does guns. Until of course, it’s time to unleash fire and brimstone on the opposition. The raging Dubs ripped down 10 O-boards in the final frame, the same amount of second chance opportunities they averaged per game that season (10.4). Read that again. TALK ABOUT GRABBING LIFE BY THE BALLS! Each offensive rebound and subsequent bucket sucked life out of the Pelicans franchise and their lead.
Shaun Livingston morphed into a Kobe Bryant-lite murderer, punishing the smaller Pelicans guards with a sneaky array of post moves and jumpers. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson divorced themselves from all conscience, firing up contested, off the dribble, bombs into the horrified eyes of any defender who dared approach. When they missed, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes flew in from the wings for timely and demoralizing putbacks. As the Warriors defense strangled out any semblance of Pelican offense, it suddenly became clear that the Dubs might just steal it. Here’s how they finished annihilating New Orleans:
- Down 107-102 with 17 seconds left, Curry pump fakes his teammate Justin Holiday’s older brother Jrue Holiday out of the arena and onto Bourbon Street before coldly drilling a three to cut the deficit to 2.
- 107-105 with 11 seconds to go. “Best PF In The Game” Anthony Davis does to his free throws what he doesn’t do with his eyebrow, and he splits them. The deficit is at three.
- 108-105 Pelicans lead. 9.6 seconds on the clock. After a Warriors timeout to move their possession closer to the basket, Green inbounds the ball to a flying Curry on the wing. Obviously, being up three with such little time left, the Pelicans probably could have ended the game with a strategic foul forcing two free throws. But the Pelicans are the bad guys in this movie, so they blow that opportunity. Curry freezes his defender with a quick pump fake before launching an errant trey attempt. Listen to this traumatized excuse from the defender post game:
“I wanted to foul, tried to foul, but there was no way. Steph was in the shooting motion. You couldn’t get to him unless you wanted to (give up) three (foul) shots. We could’ve fouled (Mo Speights) there. I’ve got to watch (the tape to see more clearly what happened).” – Quincy Pondexter on the defensive sequence at the end of regulation.
Trust me Pondexter, the tape will only show the Baby Faced Assassin putting the fear of God in you.
- Curry’s errant haymaker careens off the side of the rim. It falls into the arms of rebounding god and greatest PF in the game Anthony Davis as the Pelicans hold on for the win...wait nope. I apologize, I think I was trapped momentarily in an alternate reality where Davis is actually clutch. Let’s go back to reality. Mo Speights, a lumbering, ninja turtle-esque fan favorite more known for launching jumpers than doing dirty work, OUT RACED DAVIS TO THE BIGGEST REBOUND OF THE SERIES.
- Curry immediately sheds his stunned defender and races to the corner. Mo Buckets identifies him and shovels him the ball. The Brow, exhausted but desperate to save his city from sure death, jumps 30 feet (ish) into the air in an attempt to block Curry’s shot. Tyreke Evans charges over in tandem, but it’s too late. Curry stares both men down with the clock nearing 0:00 and calmly unleashes one of the greatest daggers in the history of all basketball, directly in both of their eyeballs. BANG. BANG. BANG. TIE GAME.
Color commentator Steve Smith let out a high pitched “Whoooo!” that even Ric Flair would be proud of. My family damn near brought the roof down as we hollered and leapt around the living room. “I told you! I TOLD YOU!”, my dad beamed as my mother’s expression scrunched up with delirious gratification. I was fiendishly high fiving anything that moved in the living room, thrilled at the ridiculous display of fourth quarter carnage and Splutch (definition: a clutch Splash). We barely even noticed Tyreke Evans attempting a eurostep 30 footer as time expired that clanged harmlessly off the rim to send the game into overtime.
As the game returned back from commercial break, we settled down some and watched the Death Bomb from Steph replay. There were a few items of note:
- Davis crashed into Curry like he’s trying out for a Slamball team. Our lil death angel Curry disappeared under a tangle of Davis’ giant body and failed potential. You can see during the start of overtime Curry angrily screaming at the referee about the missed four point play opportunity. I’m not sure if the ref didn’t call it because Curry is a +90% free throw shooter, meaning an “And One” effectively seals the game. Orrrrr maybe the refs didn’t see Davis diving on top of Curry like a one man mosh pit because they were so stunned Curry made the shot in the first place. I just know that Curry could have died shoving that three point dagger into the heart of New Orleans and he didn’t even care. HOW COLD IS THIS MAN?!
- How about the Curry family there in the midst of the stunned opposing crowd? They gasped with barely contained glee over their son snatching the soul out of the surrounding 20,000 human beings around them. How they didn’t just start cabbage patching and screaming in the face of every one around them is a definite tribute to their humble Christian background.
- 39-19: Dubs scoring advantage in the final frame, erasing a 89-69 deficit.
What an improbable comeback!— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2015
Warriors are 3rd team to rally from 20 down entering 4th quarter of playoff game (2002 Celtics, 2012 Clippers)
In overtime, the Warriors finished their explosive climactic scene with Curry sealing the game with free throws (unlike a certain greatest PF in the game) for a 123-119 victory. The eventual MVP Curry finished with 40 points and 9 assists with 7 threes, including the super clutch trey.
"To make that shot shows everything that Steph is about," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, adding that officials could have called a foul, too. "His confidence level is just off the charts. He's fearless. He wants every big shot." - NBA.com
Thompson poured in 29, while Green had 17 monster rebounds. Livingston’s 12 points off the bench on 5-7 shooting was crucial. The Warriors would eventually take advantage of their 3-0 series lead and finish off the broken remains of the Pelicans in Game 4 for their first sweep of the Splash Bros era. Anthony Davis hasn’t been back to the playoffs since, and the Warriors have taken two titles in the meantime.
Much like “The Rundown” for the Rock, this comeback is an oft forgotten gem in a grand catalogue of Dubs’ epicness. I will always cherish this game. Sure, in part for the Warriors’ 4th quarter Berserker moment and Curry adding to his post season clutch heroics. Mainly though, I’ll remember the calm on my dad’s face as he believed in a positive outcome despite an anxious situation. This is a lesson that continues to inspire me, and I hope it will inspire all of you.
….Also I really, really, really loved Curry daggering Anthony Davis. Let’s see it again, in phantom cam slow mo!