Playoffs 2017: West Finals -- Warriors (1) vs. Spurs (2)
Despite early struggles, Golden State Warriors kept firing away until comeback was fulfilled
Critical scramble to get Stephen Curry 3-pointer late in fourth a microcosm of Warriors' efforts
OAKLAND — Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer from the right side, so close to the sideline that the pump fake sent fly-by defender Manu Ginobili into the Golden State bench.
Kevin Durant missed a 3-pointer from the left side five seconds later, also long, also off the heel of the rim.
Another offensive rebound.
Shaun Livingston, twisting in mid-air to keep the play alive, stretching his right arm, tapped the ball out to the arc, Curry collected it, took one dribble to his right to get some separation on Ginobili, and launched with 1:50 remaining. The third three of the rush, all within nine seconds, all to get the Warriors even again, a 28-footer after the 25-footer from Curry and the 25-footer from Durant.
That was Golden State on Sunday afternoon, struggling on offense for stretches but continuing to fire away, looking lost for 2 ½ quarters but keeping their composure, doing a lot of things wrong but finding a way to make sure everything turned out right in the end.
Curry splashed the third attempt as the Warriors seized the opportunity to finish the monster comeback as they went from 14 points down in the first period to 25 back in the second and even 11 behind early in the fourth quarter to the 113-111 victory over the Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena. Just in case San Antonio wasn’t already wounded in enough different ways.
They were the churning, surviving Warriors, unlike the team that may have been occasionally and very briefly tested while going from a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round straight into a sweep of the Utah Jazz in the semifinals. The Warriors also closed the regular season by winning 15 of 16. A victory that would have been savored anyway, pulling a third consecutive trip to the championship series that much closer, was especially noteworthy because it tested Golden State in a way few have, and not just in the playoffs. In the whole season. Maybe in seasons, plural.
Down 25 to a good team.
Whatever emotional charge from having coach Steve Kerr in the locker room before the game, another encouraging sign as he works to return from an illness that causes severe headaches and nausea, quickly replaced by the disbelief of getting run out of their own building.
The Warriors committed 19 turnovers that led to 28 San Antonio points.
The Warriors had critical reserve Andre Iguodala play for only 10 minutes, zero in the second half because of a sore left knee — which he will get an MRI executed on Monday.
From that came the comeback that bordered on the historical, with the 20-point hole at intermission turning into a tie for the third-biggest recovery from a halftime deficit ever in the postseason and the largest ever for the franchise.
“What a game,” said interim coach Mike Brown, continuing to sub for Kerr. “It could have gone either way. Being down 25 our whatever we were down, I give our guys a ton of credit. They stayed composed. Not one point in the game did our guys hang their head… or not believe. Our guys’ composure throughout the course of the game was fantastic.”
The day, and maybe the series, changed the instant Kawhi Leonard re-injured the sprained left ankle that sidelined him overtime of Game 5 in the second round and all of Game 6, leaving this time with 7:53 remaining in the third quarter and the Spurs up 23. They can beat the Rockets in Houston without Leonard and Tony Parker, so they’re still dangerous in the playoffs, even woefully short-handed. But this just in: The Warriors are not the Rockets and Oracle Arena set on blast is not Toyota Center.
Maybe San Antonio would not have withstood the Golden State charge even with Leonard, maybe the candidate for Kia MVP and Kia Defensive Player of the Year could have held them together. The only certainty is that the 20 minutes or so that followed became the Warriors answering one of the few challenges in weeks, a moment of resilience when for the longest time the day appeared destined to be stamped as a no-show while immediately losing home-court advantage in the series heading into Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Just like the barrage of three-pointers with a little less than two minutes remaining and the Warriors down 106-103. Curry missed, then got his own rebound to get the ball to Durant. He missed, then Livingston kept the play alive. Nothing was coming easy, but the Warriors were digging deep. Finally, Curry hit one, for a tie and for symbolism: The day when a lot went wrong turned out right for them.
“You could say that, for sure,” Curry said. “All three of them were great shots. Obviously, the hustle plays to get the offensive rebound and give ourselves another opportunity. It’s obviously a timely bucket. But those are shots that we normally take, we normally make. When it’s crunch time it was nice to get that feeling where we kind of overcame some rough patches and found a way to get it done. So, obviously, a confidence boost that we want to take into Game 2.”
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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