OAKLAND – They stood in the locker room on a victorious Sunday and talked about what it meant for this series and the entire playoffs — and also about what it really meant.
A 2-2 tie against San Antonio is an accomplishment to be sure, overcoming body parts that seem ready to come unhinged and a lack of experience at this level of the playoffs, but this has just become about something bigger than the Western Conference semifinals for Golden State. Doing more than surviving, in particular grinding out an overtime win Sunday as bad health and a gasping offense and foul trouble threatened to doom them, and a comeback win at that – that’s about years.
Some Warriors’ veterans delivered the message in the aftermath of the 97-87 victory at Oracle Arena, and they were right. That was the kind of win, and now the kind of series, that could end up being a big-picture moment for something much larger than Game 5 on Wednesday in San Antonio.
For all the experience in the locker room – Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson with a smaller role on the court, even Stephen Curry in his fourth season – youth is everywhere. Klay Thompson is in his second campaign, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green in their first, and another rookie ordinarily out of the rotation, Kent Bazemore, was used late in regulation and the second overtime of Game 1.
The Warriors believe that, in some way, overcoming adversity to grind out a tie against the Spurs counts for something beyond 2012-13. It has all become so unlikely that there must be some carryover effect that will become a benefit in future seasons. The wins may be more than wins.
Sunday, Curry went from game-time decision to laboring through the first half to playing 39 minutes and contributing 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, his second such miracle recovery of the playoffs. Lee, likely headed for surgery on a torn hip muscle that was supposed to have ended his season after Game 1 of the first round, went eight minutes and said he felt noticeably stronger than two days before. Bogut is less than 100 percent.
“You saw the way he was moving there early in the first quarter,” Lee said of Curry. “The biggest thing is him being on the floor. It’s the same thing I’m trying to accomplish. Him being on the floor is an inspiration to the team. It keeps the defense honest in a lot of situations. This isn’t going to be the last year this team is going to be together. Other guys are seeing that Steph goes out when he’s hurting and plays, seeing that I go out and try to give our team what I can. Guys notice that. It’s not only building for right now and helping us win now, but it’s building for the future as well.”
Not only that, but the Warriors won while shooting 38 percent. The Warriors. The team that has ditched its reputation. If finishing fourth in the league in field-goal defense wasn’t enough, winning playoff games in the trenches is a convincing point.
“That’s something we’ve been preaching the whole season, and it’s come at the right time,” Bogut said. “When we can shoot below 40 percent, that’s probably unheard of in Warriors’ basketball history and win a game. That’s a very important step for us.”