June 12, 2012
Warriors Fought With The Finalists
Charles Jenkins reflects on his games against the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder

The goal of every NBA team is to be playing meaningful basketball in mid-to-late June, as the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are doing in this year’s NBA Finals.

The Warriors haven’t reached that ultimate goal since Al Attles led the squad to the NBA title in 1975 with a 4-0 sweep of the Washington Bullets. Back then, the season ended in late May, meaning the Warriors have never actually had the opportunity to play basketball in the month of June.

Though Oracle Arena is quiet this month, that doesn’t mean the Warriors’ players are sitting idly by. At the team’s practice facility in downtown Oakland, a number of players have been hitting the court to hone their skills, particularly last year’s rookie crop of Charles Jenkins, Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler and Chris Wright, all of whom were unable to utilize the facilities in the summer preceding their first NBA season.

The rookies would rather be playing in the Finals, of course, but they’ll all surely be watching, going through the game scenarios in their heads. Here’s a look back at the Warriors’ 2011-12 meetings with the Finals participants, as well as some insight from Charles Jenkins on the keys to beating the respective conference champions.

WARRIORS VS. MIAMI HEAT (1-0)

JANUARY 10, 2012 – GOLDEN STATE 111, MIAMI 106 (OT)
Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA

Dorell Wright's overtime dunk sealed a 111-106 overtime victory over the Heat on January 10. (Photo: Ezra Shaw/NBAE/Getty)
Golden State’s lone contest with Miami served as a litmus test for gauging the team’s playoff aspirations. Before the injury bug bit them out of contention for good, the Warriors had their sights set on a postseason berth early in the season. But by the time they faced Miami, the Warriors were just 2-6 and losers of their last five. Golden State opened the season with seven of the first eight games against eventual playoff qualifiers, and upcoming contests against the Eastern Conference powers from the Sunshine State didn’t exactly brighten the mood after a slow start.

With nearly three quarters complete, the Heat were well on their way to handing the short-handed Warriors a sixth-straight loss, leading 84-67 with 1:15 remaining in the third frame. Handed a crushing one-point loss at home to the Jazz just a couple nights prior, the Warriors refused to go down without a fight in front of the capacity crowd and countered with a 26-9 run to draw even at 93 apiece with just under two minutes to play. After the Warriors fell behind again, Dorell Wright hit a game-tying three-pointer with 31.2 seconds left to force overtime versus his former team. Wright hit a pair of threes in OT and finished with six triples en route to a 20-point, 10-rebound effort, one of four Warriors to score 20-plus. David Lee added 20 points and 14 rebounds, Monta Ellis scored 22, and newly-acquired Nate Robinson poured in a team-high 24, hitting all 14 of his free throws to help the Warriors cap a 17-point comeback.

As for the Heat, Dwyane Wade tallied a game-best 34 points while LeBron James flirted with a triple-double, netting 26 points to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the loss, only Miami’s second of the young season.

Even without the injured Stephen Curry, the Warriors managed to beat the Heat, giving the sellout crowd—as well as future Warrior Mickell Gladness, who watched the game from Miami’s bench—a memorable performance and the hope that the shortened-season could be salvaged.

CHALK IT UP, CHARLES:
“I remember it being a very close game, Dorell Wright having a tremendous game. That was one of Nate’s first games—he played great. We were down and we actually came back and won in overtime. Everyone played well and we beat them at home.

“You have to try and stop Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. It’s easier said than done. Those guys are tremendous athletes and basketball players and they’re very skilled. They’re also good at getting their teammates involved. LeBron James can go into a mode where he’s not going to miss, and Dwyane Wade can do so as well. You have to try and defend them to the best of your ability and see what happens.”

WARRIORS VS. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (0-3)

JANUARY 27, 2012 – OKLAHOMA CITY 120, GOLDEN STATE 109
Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA

In the first of three matchups in 22 days with the Thunder, the Warriors hung with the Western Conference’s most promising young squad but, in the end, were unable to overcome a 53-34 rebound disparity and outshine the Thunder’s young stars. Oklahoma City’s rebounding edge helped the visitors outduel the Warriors 58-28 in the paint, thanks in large part to season-highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds from Serge Ibaka in his second career 20-10 game. Still, Golden State managed to dwindle a double-digit deficit down to three points with 8:33 left in the game and were very much alive in the fourth quarter, but monster games from Kevin Durant (37 points, 14 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (28 points, 11 assists six rebounds, seven steals) and 19 bench points from James Harden kept the Thunder on top. In the loss, Dorell Wright turned in one of his best efforts of the season, tallying 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes.

FEBRUARY 7, 2012 – OKLAHOMA CITY 119, GOLDEN STATE 116
Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA

David Lee tallied his second career triple-double (25, 11, 10) against the Thunder on February 7. (Photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
The Warriors had a chance to redeem a hard-fought home loss to the Thunder just a week-and-a-half earlier with another home tilt against the eventual West champs, but again, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had other ideas. The Warriors knew it would take exceptional performances to top Oklahoma City, but not even a career-high 48 points from Monta Ellis, nor the second triple-double of David Lee’s career (25 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) could stop Durant’s go-ahead 18-foot bank shot with 14.2 seconds remaining. Lee’s triple-double was the first by a Warriors power forward since Chris Webber tallied 22 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists vs. the Clippers on December 23, 1993, a feat that could only be overshadowed by the likes of Durant (33 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) and Westbrook (31 points, seven assists). Just as he had in the first meeting, Harden chipped in 19 points off the bench as both teams shot well above 50 percent from the field. Stephen Curry tallied 16 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the cause.

FEBRUARY 17, 2012 – OKLAHOMA CITY 110, GOLDEN STATE 87
Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK

Far from the friendly confines of Oracle Arena, the conclusion to the trilogy did not go as planned for Golden State. Thunder fans packed Chesapeake Energy Arena—the site of the first two games of the Finals—and had plenty to cheer about, watching Oklahoma City outshoot Golden State .527 to .348. As expected, Kevin Durant (23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Russell Westbrook led the way again for the Thunder, while James Harden put up a game-high 25 points. David Lee (23 points) was the only member of the Warriors to manage more than 11.

For the series, the Thunder’s “Big Three” did what it was supposed to do. Durant averaged 31.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists; Westbrook tallied 25.7 points, 7.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 4.00 steals; and Harden scored 21.0 points to go with 3.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds in three games vs. Golden State. David Lee (22.3 points, 8.0 rebounds) and Dorell Wright (14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds) provided the Warriors best

CHALK IT UP, CHARLES:
“Two close games at home, and then we went down there and it wasn’t so close. They’re a very exciting team to watch. Fast, up and down the court. Kevin Durant’s a great scorer, Russell Westbrook, James Harden is a big threat off the bench, one of the best in the NBA. They’ve got great bigs in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. They’re a very good team.

“Same with Miami, you have to try to contain Kevin Durant and Westbrook. They have so many threats. Serge Ibaka can get it going. So can Kendrick Perkins, who played the great in the last couple of games against the Spurs. They’re a dangerous team as well. It should be interesting to see what happens.”