By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Mark Jackson has been calling out his Warriors since the end of Game 2. Not as much as the Clippers did during Game 2, a 138-98 light workout for L.A. on Monday that marked the NBA’s first 40-point margin in the playoffs in nearly four years, but it’s a moment worth tracking anyway as Game 3 looms Thursday night.
It’s a perfect moment actually. Boxing fan Jackson had analogies ready about Golden State becoming the aggressor instead of being put in counter-punch mode, but more than anything basketball, coach Jackson had an opportunity to remind that he is an emotional leader in the locker room.
That has always been the case, the first step in credibility building after taking over in 2011 without bench experience. Now, though, the Warriors need a response louder than the Oracle Arena crowd as the 1-1 series moves north. They are still without injured center Andrew Bogut in a blow to the defense in particular, and Jackson’s future in the Bay Area will become bleaker than ever if his team doesn’t even put up a fight. Game 3, then, plays right to Jackson’s strength in being able to instill confidence.
“One thing I will not do, I will not act like I never saw playoff basketball before,” he said of the road kill of a Monday night in Los Angeles. “This happens. We played bad. We were awful. We own it. We’ve got to be better. We’ll get in the lab, we’ll make the adjustments and we look forward to Thursday. We turned the ball over, we didn’t defend at a high level, we were tentative. They (the Clippers) disrupted us with their intensity, with their aggressiveness defensively.
“Give them credit. There’s no sense in pointing the finger anywhere else other than the fact that we didn’t get the job done. But I will say this, just like I told my team: For 82 games we earned the sixth seed, we came here and earned home-court advantage. So we will not overreact.”
Someone asked him how the Warriors bounce back from a loss like that.
“We’re the Warriors,” Jackson replied. “You own it and you make the proper adjustments. We’ll watch film, we’ll go over stuff. The same way that the Clippers bounced back. It’s 1-1. We’re not going to overreact. We’re going to own the fact that we didn’t play well. We had some bad performances out there and we were out of character. But that being said, we’re not going to lose sight of the fact that we now have home-court advantage and if we stick to our game plan and do the things that we talked about doing to put us in position to win this series, I believe we’re going to be fine.”
The problem with the “We’re The Warriors” pitch is that they’re also the Warriors who didn’t take care of the ball during the regular season and then piled up 23 and 26 turnovers the first two games, and the same team that had bad moments against lesser opponents in trying to protect home court before getting to this stage. The flip side is that Golden State was obviously doomed in the first round a year ago, when they got crushed in a different way on the road with the Andre Miller layup that gave the Nuggets the victory, and when All-Star David Lee was lost to injury, and that turned out just fine.
The opponent this time is much better this time, an obvious difference. The bigger issue, though, is there was never a game when the Warriors of the 2013 playoffs lacked effort.
“Disappointed,” Jackson called his players’ competitive level. “(The Clippers were) a desperate basketball team that we played against (Monday). We didn’t match them. … They came into the game and they made plays. The disappointing part is overall we had an opportunity to take a commanding hold of this series and we did not. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win this game. But we didn’t lose it in the fashion that’s acceptable to us.”
The Warriors have a chance to respond Thursday at home. Jackson has a chance to make the moment his own.