Even in OT loss, Dubs prove they have spirit to defend title originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
Though they have been awful at times this season, the Warriors are much too proud to allow a swift closing of their championship window. That much was apparently Thursday night in Boston.
In an NBA Finals rematch worthy of designation, the defending champs took the fight to the Celtics, owners of the best record in the league, winners of seven in a row, and in the process reminded the world at large why even with an aging core they will be the league’s most dreaded postseason opponent.
For even in a 121-118 overtime loss at TD Gardenthe Warriors proved the collective heartbeat can not only be heard but also felt.
“All in all, I loved the level of competition, the way the guys played the together,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Boston. “We looked like what we are, which is a championship team.
“But we didn’t close the game. Better now than in the playoffs.”
The Warriors dropped back below .500 (22-23) because they couldn’t hold the seven-point lead (98-91) they took into the fourth quarter. If they get one more stop, they win. If one more shot drops through the net – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole combined to shoot 4-of-18 in the quarter – they win.
Golden State’s defense held up, limiting Boston to 38.1 percent in the fourth, but its offense went ground.
To be fair, there was little artistry on either side. The Warriors throughout didn’t shoot particularly well, only 40 percent from the field. They were bullied in the paint, outscored 52-30, and on the glass, outrebounded 63-47.
They stayed in the game by displaying levels of grit and tenacity often missing in previous games. Levels that if consistently applied will serve them well for the regular season and beyond.
“I loved the effort,” Kerr said. “I loved the grit. The competitiveness out there.”
The Warriors stayed with the Celtics for four quarters mostly because they frustrated MVP candidate Jayson Tatum – again. And because they exploited the rust and possible discomfort of Jaylen Brown, returning to action after a week on the sideline with tightness in his groin.
It was in OT that Tatum and Brown combined to send the Warriors off the floor with a thick layer of disappointment. This was a painful loss insofar as they’ll be back on the court Friday night against the imposing Cavaliers in Cleveland.
This was not, however, a loss that leads to questions about Golden State’s determination. This was not a lackluster performance against a less talented opponent, and there have been many of those. This was not a case of the Warriors sealing their doom with turnovers or multiple instances of questionable shot selection.
To the contrary, this was a performance that confirmed the Warriors, even with a pedestrian 22-23 record, are committed to the struggle.
“We’ve got a core group that has won titles,” Kerr said. “That’s in their DNA. I have great faith in all those guys. They’ve been through everything together. Theyve had great success.
“It’s a long haul to get through the NBA season, particularly in the case of Steph, Draymond, and Klay, you’ve been at it for a decade, playing deep into the playoffs. It’s not easy. But I have no doubt we’ve got enough. And those guys know how to get it done.”
The Warriors might be 0-4 against lowly Orlando and lowlier Detroit, but to measure them by their worst games is to miss their essence. Doing so might make it tempting to reach the conclusion that, yes, their championship window is indeed closing.
But Golden State is 2-1 against contenders in Boston and Memphis, with only loss coming Thursday night in OT.
To measure the Warriors by their best games – and the opponents in those games – is to provide sharper focus on what makes them tick. Marquee games get their attention. Real consequences feed their energy and take it higher.
They lost this game, but that won’t decide the season. That will come during the next 37 games and in the postseason. If the Warriors bring attitude and fortitude to the degree displayed in Boston, their championship will be defended with honor and self-respect. That’s all which is fair to ask.