Programming note: Coverage of Warriors-Clippers Game 3 starts Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area with Warriors Pregame Live. Bookmark this page for comprehensive coverage of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson spent a few minutes with the media on Tuesday and there was an overt theme to his session.
He wants to see his team fight.
He's not asking his players to lace up gloves, step into a ring and start throwing hooks and jabs. He's asking those on his roster to stand up and protest with purpose, to be proactive instead of reactive.
"We've got to come out playing with force, aggressive," Jackson said. "And we didn't do that in Game 2. We've been the counter-puncher. But we've got to find a way to be the puncher."
His request was subtle but abundantly clear. His comments were liberally sprinkled with words like "fought," "fighting," "aggressive" and "attack." Jackson on multiple occasions used the word "soft" in describing the Warriors' performance, particularly while taking a 138-98 defeat in Game 2 on Monday night.
This is, without doubt, a deliberate tactic, a message to his team. Jackson is something of a boxing aficionado who understands that savagery is part of the artistry. And, evidently, he has had enough watching his team take blows.
It's reasonable to assume that while Jackson is sparing no one, with the possible exception of Stephen Curry, who unveiled his testy side in the third quarter Monday, the coach would like these words to reach, above all, power forward David Lee.
There is no question that if Lee doesn't play with channeled rage, he will continue to be on the victim in the horror movie featuring Clippers forward Blake Griffin as the unrelenting, unforgiving monster.
"We've got to do a better job of fighting," Jackson said. "I didn't think we fought in Game 2. And if you don't fight against a big-time talent, you don't stand a chance."
Of the four halves the two forwards have played thus far, Lee has won one, a decisively victory in the second half of Game 1, fouling Griffin out of the game and lifting the Warriors achieve a split of the first two games. Griffin won the first half of that game and took complete ownership of Game 2.
"He's played extremely well," Jackson said of Griffin. "In Game 1, in short minutes, he hurt us. And in Game 2, he pretty much dominated."
Though Lee was the Warrior most visibly missing his mean streak, he was not the only one. But while some of his teammates can get away with it, to a degree, any softness on Lee's part invites the possibility of Griffin taking over.
The local and national TV audience, as well as a sellout crowd at Staples, saw what that looks like.
But some of his teammates seemed a bit passive away from the ball, especially in some of the instances when the Clippers trapped Curry. Rather than pushing and shoving and cutting hard to get in position for the ball, there seemed to be moments of indecision or, worse, ambivalence.
That accounts for many of the 49 turnovers committed by the Warriors in the first two games. It's astounding, really, almost one every other minute.
"We can't play the way we did (Monday night) and expect just to come home and get wins," Curry said. "We know we took care of business in Game 1, but we have to find a way to start games better and assert ourselves more."
Curry's desire to be more assertive is, well, a polite call for all to be a bit nastier. The Clippers are bigger and faster, and athletically superior, so allowing them to land the first shots is the plan of a fool.
But that's what happened in Games 1 and 2. The Warriors recovered in one, stayed on the deck in the other.
"You have to give them credit, because they imposed their will," forward Draymond Green said. "But we've got some things we can do better simply based on us. And we have to focus on those things and we'll be ready come Thursday."
Ah, yes, Game 3, at Oracle Arena.
In the wake of Game 2 Jackson gently reminded his team that a building, no matter how loud and supportive, does not win games. That winning requires "getting stops and drawing charges" and bringing more consistent intensity.
On Tuesday, the amended that.
He urged his guys to be more belligerent. The coach wants his players to hear that, even if he did not use that exact word.