No Andrew Bogut? Check.
Fully healthy Clippers squad? Check.
Awful start? Check.
Iguodala foul trouble? Six checks.
…Momentum building, home court stealing, Game 1 road victory? Big time check.
We should know better than to doubt them by now. This has been the theme all season long. Just when you’re ready to give up hope in them, just when the odds seemed stacked too high to overcome, the Dubs expound a loud message to all within earshot: they don’t care what you think.
That became rather clear following Saturday’s Game 1 victory in Los Angeles, when Klay Thompson confirmed “We knew we had this game,” in his postgame t.v. interview. If that’s the case, Thompson and the Dubs should start buying some lottery tickets, because they knew something the vast majority of others didn’t.
For all the reasons stated above, a Game 1 victory seemed unlikely at best. Knowing full well that the Clippers would do their best to run the Warriors off the court and win the game in the opening minutes, the Dubs were prepared, but not well enough. Golden State got off to a terrible start, falling behind 12-1 to open the game, going the first 4:23 without a made field goal. No, you can certainly guarantee that’s not the start Mark Jackson was hoping for.
Then came the fouls. A lot of them. It’s hard to say if either team gained an advantage from the hyper-reactive officiating, but one thing is for certain: the much-talked about “rivalry” between the two sides absolutely had an effect on how the game was called. Andre Iguodala racked up as many fouls as shots in only 20 minutes, fouling out for the first time all season. Blake Griffin had a similar afternoon, collecting several early fouls, which limited his game line to 16 points in nineteen minutes. Some might argue that the trade-off worked in Golden State’s advantage, but I’m not so sure. Particularly without Bogut, Iguodala plays an even greater role on defense than usual, and you need all the defense you can get against the Clippers’ high-flying offense. That’s all debatable though. Both players seemed mystified after several calls, and it was hard to blame them. Yet, the adversity created an opportunity for both teams, and it was how they responded to it that ultimately determined the victor.
This game was about resiliency. The Dubs could have mailed it in after that terrible start, conceding that it just wasn’t going to be their night. But that’s not the mindset of this team, never has been. They love the underdog role. They desire the challenge. While several regular season losses to non-playoff teams, particularly at home, generated some significant doubt as to what this team was actually capable of, that question suddenly became irrelevant once the playoff started. No longer will the Warriors be heavy favorites against any team they encounter the rest of the way. Their opponent will be quite strong, and in all likelihood, the favorite to dispatch the Dubs from the postseason. Which, actually, works in the Dubs’ favor.
There was one sequence that truly epitomized the game, and Harrison Barnes was at the very center of it. Just after the Clippers had regained a 103-102 lead with just under two minutes remaining, Los Angeles raced down the court on a 3-on-1, poised to throw a gut shot that might have knocked the Warriors down for the count. And worst of all for the Warriors, it was none other than Chris Paul leading the break. Well, just like the team mantra, Harrison Barnes could not have cared less. Barnes played the odd man rush perfectly, forcing Paul to commit to a contested lay-up, which the Black Falcon promptly deflected off the backboard using the very tips of his outstretched feathers. The Dubs gathered the defensive rebound, and ran the opposite direction, creating a fast break opportunity of their own. And who was there to cash in, and deliver that momentous blow? None other than Barnes, who’s three-pointer from the top of the arc was certain to drop through the net from the moment he released it. It was a huge basket for the Dubs, and perhaps an even bigger moment for Barnes. His struggles this season have been well-documented, but his performance on Saturday, coming on the heels of a career-high scoring night in the Dubs’ regular season finale, has a chance to redefine Barnes’ 2013-14 campaign. He had his coming out party in the playoffs a season ago. If he can have any sort of similar impact like he did on Saturday, that’s going to mean very good things for the Warriors’ chances of advancing.
After just one game, it’d be a mistake to define Game 2 as a must-win for the Clippers. Yes, another home loss to open the series would be digging themselves quite a hole, but there’s still a long way to go, and neither side is going to approach Monday’s contest with that sort of mindset. That said, while the Warriors have accomplished one of their goals of stealing home court advantage, it’s difficult not to stress just how big that game is going to be. Whether they’ll admit it or not, the Clippers are now on their heels. Now is the time for the Warriors to prove that they have learned from their regular season downfalls – that, they too, have that killer instinct. I would expect the Clippers to come out playing as if their hair is on fire. For that reason, it is imperative that the Warriors get off to a better start than they did on Saturday. They don’t have to win the game in the opening minutes, but they do need to give themselves a chance to win it at the end.
A 2-0 series lead sure would be nice, but you’d have to think the Dubs are at least a little satisfied knowing they’ve already proved the doubters wrong once.
But then again, they don’t care what you think, remember?
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Golden State Warriors.