Some life lessons are learned through pain and hardship. The Golden State Warriors had a 16 point lead over the San Antonio Spurs with just four minutes remaining in Game 1 of their series. Somehow, inexplicably, they lost that lead. A game that was all but locked up ended up being a double overtime thriller, with the Spurs as the victors, 129-127.
“I’ll tell you, it was bad basketball and I think it was just a young team that panicked, you know?” Jackson said. “I wish I had in my coach’s manual a way to explain it, but I don’t think anybody’s ever gone through that.”
Stephen Curry through three quarters was clearly the best player on the floor. But in the fourth quarter and the overtime periods, fatigue began to set in. He missed his final eight jump shots. In total he would end up playing 57 minutes. His backcourt mate Klay Thompson would foul out late in the fourth quarter. Draymond Green would later foul out as well.
The Warriors showed that they are a team on the rise. They also showed there are still steps for them to take.
This is not the first time they have struggled closing out a game. In Game 6 of the opening round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, they literally almost threw the game away with costly late game turnovers. Things as simple as inbounding the ball became a struggle for the young team. On that night, they held it together enough to sneak out with a victory. On this night, it was not to be.
Tony Parker, who struggled early, found his rhythm late and was key factor down the stretch. Also Danny Green did not shrink in the moment as he seemed to last season. He made big shots late in the game. Manu Ginobili looked like he would be the goat of the game for missing a deep three-pointer with 11 seconds left to go. However, he was able to hit what would be the game winner with just over one second left.
This game was the type of game that could crush a young team or it could be the catalyst for them to recognize their potential.
On the road, against a veteran team, missing your All-Star power forward, David Lee, and the team had a chance to win the game convincingly. Or, that could have been the team’s best shot to win a game on the road in the series.
It will be up to coach Jackson to put the loss in to the proper perspective, as he did when the Warriors lost Game 5 of the opening round against the Nuggets.
The first thing Jackson has to fix is the turnovers; the Warriors committed 21 turnovers in Game 1. Defending the three-point line will also be important to the Warriors success. The Spurs shot 50% from behind the arc, hitting 13 of 26 attempts.
Teams can lose Game 1 and certainly comeback from it. There is no one in Miami who thinks that the Heat are out of their series. The New York Knicks came back in Game 2 and made a statement after a tough Game 1 loss. Both of those teams lost on their home floors. Those two teams just happen to be veteran teams.
These are the moments that build character in teams. Hopefully, for the Warriors, that character reveals itself in Game 2.