If there’s one thing the Warriors have been this season it’s resilient. They lost key substitute Brandon Rush in the second game of the season, and yet continued to move forward.
Andrew Bogut was out of the lineup for most of the season with an ankle injury, and yet they still plugged away, picking up wins in the process.
The Warriors also lost power forward David Lee to a hip injury in Game 1 against Denver in the first round, but they still found a way to knock off the third-seeded Nuggets.
They must be resilient again, this time on Wednesday night in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal against the San Antonio Spurs.
Golden State is coming off a crushing loss, one in which they blew a 16-point lead with four minutes remaining in regulation and wound up losing 129-127 in double overtime. The Warriors lost when Manu Ginobili knocked down a three-point shot with 1.2 seconds remaining in double overtime.
As disheartening as that loss was, it’s not unlike a tough loss the Warriors suffered in Game 1 against Denver. Remember when Andre Miller converted a drive in the final seconds of that game to give the Nuggets a 97-95 win in the opener?
Well, the Warriors bounced back very nicely from that disappointing defeat, thank you very much. In Game 2, the Warriors put on a show that caught the attention of the entire NBA community when they shot 65 percent from the field, including 56 percent from 3-point range, in a 131-117 blowout win.
That win gave the Warriors the homecourt advantage and the psychological advantage, too, and they never relinquished either.
Now, we all know that the Spurs are better and more experienced than the Nuggets. Still, it has to be encouraging to coach Mark Jackson and his players that they already have a template for playoff success after an initial defeat – and a harsh one, at that.
Jackson has been a positive motivator for the Warriors all season, and he has plenty of positives to push on his players heading into Game 2:
--Klay Thompson did a very good defensive job on point guard Tony Parker, obviously bothering Parker with length and underrated quickness. Parker’s penetration can cause all sorts of problems for a defense, but Thompson nullified that.
It was only after Thompson fouled out that Parker started wreaking havoc. Thompson was also able to take advantage of Parker at the defensive end, shooting over him with great ease.
For Jackson, it’s got to be nice to know the Warriors have it in them to significantly limit Parker.
--Center Andrew Bogut continues to have a positive effect on the game when he is playing in it. Between Thompson doing a nice job on Parker and Bogut clogging up everything else, the Spurs didn’t get a lot at the bucket.
Bogut showed the same ability to impact the game in multiple ways on Monday night as he did throughout the Denver series.
The reality is that with Bogut and Festus Ezeli, the Warriors have more than enough size to hang in this series – even with Tiago Splitter expected back for San Antonio.
But Bogut is going to have to make some foul shots, otherwise Spurs coach Gregg Popovich may do what he did in Game 1 – purposely foul Bogut to send him to the line.
Bogut went 2-for-6 from the line against the Spurs in those situations, and Jackson acknowledged on Tuesday the poor free throw shooting was a factor in Bogut not playing much later in the game.
Still, all things considered, Bogut looks good at the series’ outset, and that’s a nice foundation to have.
*****It’s hard to focus on now, but it is very impressive that the Warriors are playing in the Western Conference semifinals, and four rookies are contributing.
Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, and now Kent Bazemore all have made helpful contributions – and then some – through seven total playoff games.
All four of those players were confident, poised and under control under tight and tense circumstances. That’s not only encouraging for the rest of this series, it’s encouraging for the long term.
In fact, you could argue that Monday night was one of the only times this season that some of the veteran players – Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Richard Jefferson – didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
The positive of the four first-year players performing well in the opener is that Jackson now knows he can go to them moving forward. That’s a luxury he didn’t know he had coming into the playoffs.