HANG TIME WEST – Higher powers at play. That’s it. It was higher powers.
“…. I think that God has a sense of humor,” said Mark Jackson, pastor and Warriors coach, “because He wanted to show folks at the end as we threw the ball all over the place, and it’s only a miracle that we advanced.”
Or maybe it was a reality check that kept changing.
“Each possession, it can’t get any worse than this,” guard Stephen Curry said. “Then it does.”
As if the opponent in the second round – the Spurs, co-favorites at worst all season to win the West – isn’t enough of a concern, the Warriors are in San Antonio in advance of Game 1 on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT) with another opponent staring back at them: the Warriors.
The Western Conference semifinals became a double-concern in that way about the time they started doing everything in their power to keep the Nuggets alive in the first round by committing 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. Which came after another near-meltdown moment earlier in the series. Which came after Golden State finished 23rd in the league in turnovers during the regular season.
The Warriors are giving a clinic on what not to do at the end of games. It’s not the youthful indiscretion of a team relying heavily on four players in their first or second season, either. Curry, the hero against Denver, had four turnovers in 3 minutes 33 seconds of the fourth quarter as part of the Nuggets rallying from 18 down with 9:11 remaining to within two points with 32 seconds left.
The Warriors collapsed but survived, as much as falling across the finish line face first would be forgotten all around them amid the euphoria of going from first-round underdog, trailing 0-1 to a team that almost never lost at home and losing David Lee to a hip injury. But Golden State needed almost all of the 18-point cushion, and that was with the Nuggets making only 50 percent of their free throws (five of 10) in the final quarter and 61.9 percent (13 of 21). If Denver is so much as respectable from the line, or anything better than 34.7 percent from the field, it could have earned a Game 7 at the Pepsi Center.
That finish would have been bad enough, and possibly written off as a fluke occurrence, except that it wasn’t the first escape. Just six days earlier, the Warriors led 109-108, were coming out of a timeout with 9.4 seconds remaining, and had the ball. And Jarrett Jack was called for a five-second violation on the sideline near midcourt – even though Golden State had a 20-second timeout left.
The Nuggets got another chance, but could not capitalize. Ty Lawson lost the ball, Denver was forced to foul, Harrison Barnes made one free throw for a 110-108 Warriors lead, and Andre Igoudala missed a last-second three-point Hail Mary for the win. As much as Golden State had succeeded, Golden State had survived itself for what would become twice in four games.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Curry said after the Warriors nearly coughed up Game 6. “When the first two turnovers happened, it’s like, ‘All right, we’ll get it right.’ Two turnovers happened, they started making threes. The lead starts to dwindle down. I don’t know if we played on our heels. We did play on our heels. We had some miscommunication that put us in some awkward spots. Coach just told us, ‘Hey, we got this 18-point lead, we’ve played well the whole game, we’re going to figure out how to win this game, get out of here.’ That’s just what we did…. I promise that won’t happen again. Kind of inexcusable at this point.”