OAKLAND, Calif. – The crowd let go for good, in appreciation and probably in exhausted release, with about 40 seconds remaining. It was after Draymond Green corralled the defensive rebound of Tim Duncan‘s miss and the final Spurs threat had been denied. They cheered loudly through the final possessions as the clock drained to zero and fans inside Roar-acle Arena realized this actually would happen.
The Warriors really would use limping Stephen Curry … and hobbling David Lee … and have starting bigs Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry pick up three fouls in the first quarter … and need a loudspeaker to reach Andris Biedrins at the end of the bench to use him in the second quarter of the biggest game in at least six seasons … and come back to beat the Spurs 97-87 in overtime Sunday. All while shooting 38 percent.
Pick a description that fits.
Unlikely? For sure, but maybe too understated. That makes it seems like the Warriors had to overcome an obstacle. This was the day when everything went wrong — health, fouls, offense — until it went so right and they had a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven series that shifts to San Antonio on Wednesday.
Improbable? That works. Golden State grinded enough and the Spurs also shot poorly enough, at 35.5 percent, that the Warriors were able to stay close. But to say it was clear they had that passing gear in them, not a chance. And yet, they went eight down with 4:49 remaining in the fourth to overtime to outscoring the Spurs 13-3 in overtime as San Antonio went 1-for-10 from the field.
Impossible? Too strong. Because this has become the season, as evidenced again Sunday, when nothing is impossible for the Warriors.
“I don’t know a good adjective to use,” Lee said after thinking for a moment. “But it’s definitely satisfying. That’s a good way to put it.”
Satisfying at the very least. The Warriors couldn’t hit a shot in the first half and had 37 points at the break, but didn’t give in to frustration. They knew they were playing hard and with a sharp focus, unlike the lacking effort two days earlier in the Game 3 loss, and that it was just a matter of getting the same good looks to fall. Eleven players had already been used in the patch job by coach Mark Jackson, including Biedrins, who delivered a hold-the-fort three minutes at center in his first appearance since April 12.
The end result was much more than a victory, as if that wasn’t enough at a time like this. The Warriors didn’t get swamped under by adversity, so they grew some more late in what had already been a season of maturation. Curry went from game-time decision (because of the sprained left ankle) to generating all of three shots in the first half to finishing with 22 points while making 5-for-10 from behind the arc and 7-for-15 overall. So, he had survived. Jarrett Jack went from taking local heat for his decision making as the backup point guard to contributing 12 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and 24 overall. He had endured, too.
“It’s because of who we are,” Jackson said. “This is what these guys have been. This is how hard they’ve worked. This is how they’re committed. It’s a special season for this basketball team and this group of guys, this entire organization and its fan base. We’ve done things that show us when we do ‘em how good we can be. I’m not surprised by anything. One thing I know, this team will not lay down, this team will not quit. It looked dark. It looked awfully dark. But we found a way to get stops and make plays.
“I’ve been talking about this group all year long. I’m just so glad that a national TV audience had an opportunity to see exactly what’s been taking place in this area. Like I said, this is the greatest group of guys I’ve been around. … I [have] a young basketball team that’s got incredible heart. I’m so, so proud of those guys, from the first guy to the last guy. You look at a guy like Biedrins. Called upon, gave us great minutes. I mean, we got an incredible group. People beat up Jarrett Jack. ‘Why is he pounding the ball? Bench him.’ I’m going to go with this group until I’m not here. This is a great group and I’m committed to them, they’re committed to me. Just a big-time win. This is a heck of a series.”
It still is, at 2-2 rather than 3-1 with the Spurs heading home and the Warriors afraid to wonder what else can go wrong because then they would find out. It is a heck of series because only almost everything went bad for Golden State on Sunday. It is because Game 4 actually did happen.