Playoffs 2017: West Finals -- Warriors (1) vs. Spurs (2)
Finals collapse keeps Golden State Warriors focused on task at hand
Golden State has more history within reach after 10-0 playoff start, but NBA title remains sole goal
OAKLAND – So now, Tuesday night, it was the Golden State Warriors 136, San Antonio Spurs 100 and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, after surging back from a 25-point deficit to win Game 1, after consecutive sweeps of the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers, until the question had become obvious for the Warriors.
Especially for the Warriors.
This is essentially the team, after all, that has loved the chase, that was motivated by the chance to catch the 1995-96 Bulls at 72 wins and either tie or break the mark for the best regular season ever. The pursuit of big numbers energized the Warriors of a year ago, until they finally got to 73, even at the expense of not being ideally rested entering the playoffs.
So, Tuesday night and the obvious question.
When you get to 10-0 in the playoffs, Stephen Curry was asked, can you not help but think about what if, and what lies ahead?
What if the Warriors continue to step on a San Antonio roster down 40 percent of its starting lineup and now showing signs it wasn’t much interested in trying to stay in the fight?
What if the chance to finish with one of the best playoff marks in history is what lies ahead, a new kind of chase?
Curry put his head on a swivel.
Back and forth he shook it, insistently, barely waiting for the question to finish.
“Not at all,” Curry answered, a statement after his earlier statement of 29 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the entire Warriors offense ran amok with Kawhi Leonard missing from the San Antonio defense. “It’s pretty easy not to think about that, if you know what I mean.”
That the Warriors are focused on the opponent directly in front of them and not in chasing ghosts, that any route to a parade route works as long as they get there, and that these aren’t the olden days of 2016 anymore. That last part most of all.
“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just kind of fall the other team’s way and they lose. But you may do things the right way.”
Warriors interim coach Mike Brown
“It’s pretty easy not to think about that” was probably June 2016 talking. Because the Warriors got their cherished regular-season record, reaching 73 wins, then gave it back and then some in going from a 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers to a 4-3 defeat — the biggest collapse in Finals history. They made the history book in the first 82 games, alright, but also the last seven.
Ten-and-oh in the playoffs appears to mean a grand total of nothing to these Warriors, tying San Antonio 2012 and Cleveland 2016 for the second-best start to a postseason is worth something along the lines of a shoulder shrug, and the chance to tie the all-time mark of 11-0 on Saturday seeming like oh, by the way.
Oh, by the way, Golden State is within range of passing, ya know, everyone in the history of the NBA.
The Lakers of 1989 and the Lakers of 2001 won their first 11, and now the Warriors of 2017 can tie that in Game 3 on Saturday as the best-of-seven series shifts to San Antonio. If that goes anything like Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, they can break the mark in Monday’s Game 4. Really looking ahead – which Golden State insists it is not – two teams have gone through the playoffs with only one loss, the 2001 Lakers (15-1) and the 1983 76ers (12-1).
Not that it seems to matter to the Warriors while talking with head-shaking certainty that 2-0 against the Spurs is all that matters.
“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” interim coach Mike Brown said. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just kind of fall the other team’s way and they lose. But you may do things the right way. So more than anything, yes, we want the win more than anything else. But how you play, too, because we want to keep developing good habits going forward.
“The score really doesn’t matter. It’s how we got to the score, how we played defensively, how we played offensively. Did we do the things that we emphasized going into the series? Who played well for us on this part of the roster? Which combination worked good for us? Those are things we look at.”
It’s easy to say the score really doesn’t matter after a 36-point laugher as the 25th win in the last 26 games. Or after their 23 assists in the first half were the most in a playoff half since the Rockets reached the same number against the Timberwolves on April 29, 1997. Or after becoming the ninth team to ever pile up a double-digit win streak in the playoffs. That is what they’re saying, at least.
That it’s pretty easy not to think about all that.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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