In the hours and days and weeks, and sometimes even years, after a last-second victory, the focus lingers on the game-winning shot. The buzzer beater is the lasting image.
Often, however, what's at work is something of considerably greater substance. That certainly was true in the Warriors 101-100 win over the Hawks on Friday night in Atlanta.
[RECAP: Warriors 101, Hawks 100]
Andre Iguodala's picturesque 3-point jumper punctuated the victory, won hearts and generated one of the great highlights of the night, the week and the season. But the Warriors won this game with defense.
Coach Mark Jackson frequently pleads observers to take note of how well the Warriors defend. This was a night to take him at his word, for no team overcomes a 15-point deficit in less than five minutes without playing some ferocious D.
"We started getting stops, then we got looks," Jackson said after the team's eighth straight win. "We talked about getting one stop and then another stop and then another stop."
The lockdown began after a Pero Antic 3-pointer gave the Hawks a 91-76 lead with 6:48 left. The Warriors held Atlanta to 1-of-8 shooting the rest of the way, forcing two turnovers and blocking one shot. The Warriors outrebounded the Hawks 12-2 during that stretch, limiting them to one shot on every possession.
During the Warriors' game-changing 20-4 run over a 4:21 stretch, Atlanta made zero shots from the field.
"We still didn't execute on the offensive end down the stretch on every possession," Stephen Curry conceded. "But our defense allowed us to make up for that."
Granted, the Hawks are no juggernaut. They don't have a multitude of legitimate offensive threats. No matter. Any time one NBA team limits another to one field goal over the final 6:48, it's a tremendous accomplishment.
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Even Iguodala, the individual hero, had to give props to the team defense.
"When our shots aren't going, that’s when character builds for us and we can see what type of team we are on the defensive end," he said. "Tonight, it happened for us in the last five minutes."
THE GOOD: The furious fourth-quarter rally, of course. Klay Thompson provided fabulous offense at the start, making his first four shots. The late-game defense was downright suffocating. And, oh yes, Iguodala's cool while draining the game-winner.
THE BAD: On a night when the Warriors could have used some bench support, the reserves were outscored 41-22. After making their first three 3-pointers, all by Thompson, they missed the next 18 in a row. Curry committed nine turnovers.
THE TAKE: The Warriors looked tired and ready to check out. Instead, the summoned a remarkable fourth-quarter to steal a game in which they did not play well for most of the first 42 minutes. It was an impressive show of guts and resolve. It illustrated the importance of defense. All in all, a victory of which the Dubs can be extremely proud.