COHN: Warriors fall back to earth
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:19 p.m.
OAKLAND -- The Warriors didn’t wait until double overtime to lose to San Antonio as they did in Game 1 of their playoff series. That wasn’t necessary. And they didn’t run the Spurs out of the building with 3-point shots and lightning bursts down the lane as they did in Game 2. That was out of the question.
Reality made an appearance at Oracle Arena Friday night, a return to what most basketball fans would consider the normal order of things. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92 and took a 2-1 lead in this Western Conference semifinal series.
The Spurs, who had seemed so slow and, face it, ancient in the first two games, even in the game they won, played steadier and shot better than the Warriors, and held the lead most of the way. And, if you want to think like an athlete, they imposed their will on the Warriors, made Golden State play according to San Antonio’s agenda — slow, methodical, cerebral basketball. “They’re unselfish, disciplined, that’s who they are,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said afterward.
The Warriors’ kiddy guards, the story of the NBA postseason, didn’t go off. They would be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. You might say they never even went on. Curry scored 16 and Thompson scored 17, not bad, not great. But they were 12 of 37 in field goal attempts — hold-your-nose material. The kiddy guards, who had soared in the first two games, were distinctly earthbound and terrestrial.
In the first half, Curry shot an air ball on a 3-pointer, the ball listing drunkenly to the right of the basket. You expect him to bury that sucker, total swish. And of course, Curry sprained his ankle on a nothing play in the fourth quarter. We’ve seen that before. His ankle is his Achilles’ heel — forgive the mixed metaphor, not to mention mixed body part. He limped around the court but stayed in the game. Afterward, Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson seemed worried. “He sprained the left one and he’s icing it,” he said of Curry. “We’ll see where he’s at.”
And that means Curry may or may not play next game. If he doesn’t, well you know.
The kiddy guards didn’t soar, but the Spurs’ Tony Park sure soared. And he also scored. In the first half, he had 25 points, just buried the Warriors — he scored 32 in the game. No one could guard him, not Curry, not Thompson, not Jarrett Jack. As they say in the gangster movies, forget about it.
Parker, studious-looking, shaved head, would slide into the paint just near the foul line — more comfortable for him than 3-point range — and he would rise modestly for a modest jumper. Everything so contained and, yes, so modest. And everything all net again and again and again. It was a demonstration, a clinic, a tutorial.
The Warriors certainly didn’t go timidly. They made comebacks in the third and fourth quarters. Each time, the Spurs seemed unnerved and you just thought the Warriors would take over the game — that’s how good they are. You expected Curry to start draining 3s as easily as breathing. But it never happened. As I say, he was terrestrial.
The Spurs showed something — it may have been as simple as pride. Or it could be championship mettle. When it counted, they were more insistent, more efficient than the Warriors. Just better. And in the second half, Duncan, his face stoic, nothing hurried about him, took over — Duncan big, solid, iron-willed.
“That team is capable of coming into our building and beating us,” Jackson said. “They proved it. We went into their building and won. This series is far from over.”
Before the game, a strangely happy Gregg Popovich addressed the media. Here is a long quote from the Spurs’ coach, but it’s worth it.
“You can’t make the game too complicated,” he said. “The same simple things win and lose — physicality, aggressiveness, how well you shoot, if you turn it over too much. It’s not that difficult. We need to shoot the ball. We need to score. We’ve been shooting horribly, and that’s the big difference in the games. If you look at the stat sheet from the last game — I don’t know if you all do that sort of thing — we win in the paint, we win second-chance points, we win fast-break points, we shoot more free throws. But we shot in the 30s. That can’t be.
“So, we’re doing a lot of things pretty well, but you’ve got to put it in the basket, and they’re doing a much better job of that than we are. If you hold them to 100 (in Game 2), you feel like you did a decent job but you’ve got to score. If you have suggestions on scoring, just put it under the door here. I promise I’m going to read them all.”
Popovich has seen his guys do it before, knows who they are. He was relaxed before the game because, when you have Duncan and Parker, you tend to feel lighthearted about most things. And you know they will score.
Someone asked if he told Parker to shoot more. “He and Timmy (Duncan) both,” Popovich said. “Sometimes (Parker) gets a little obsessed about driving and he forgets open jumpers, and he forgets to play with teammates.”
Apparently, he didn’t forget on Friday.
The same teams play again Sunday. San Antonio, as always, is looking to impose boring, pedestrian, mundane reality on the game. But the Warriors need a touch of fantasy, a sprinkle of make-believe, not to mention magic. The young Warriors, gloriously, are creatures of dreams.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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