In this four-part series, we’ll take a deeper look at the recent success of the Golden State Warriors. Today, we examine the fortitude behind the Warriors’ comeback win in Atlanta on Friday.—Ed.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
“We were just a step slow all game,” said guard Stephen Curry after facing the Hawks Friday.
It was the second night of a back-to-back after a tremendous win in Miami, and the team’s fourth stop during a season-long seven-game road trip.
After three quarters, the Warriors trailed 72-64, shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 3-19 from beyond the arc. Andre Iguodala was 0-1, Harrison Barnes was 1-8 and Stephen Curry was 2-6.
“In the middle of our road trip, on a back-to-back, you got to find that energy to come out and play well and we didn’t have it for three quarters, basically. Thankfully, we found it when we needed it at the end,” said Curry.
When things are going badly, teams seem to find ways to lose. When things are going well, the opposite seems to happen.
In his five-year Warriors tenure, Curry has seen both sides of that spectrum. Asked about the difference, he says, “Just that belief that when there’s time left on the clock, you still have an opportunity to win. I’ve been on teams in that situation, you’re down 10, you could try all you wanted. Sometimes you didn’t have the right firepower. You didn’t have the right game plan to get yourselves back in it no matter how much you wanted or how hard you tried. We feel like we have the weapons to make it happen. For some reason, we were just a step slow all game. Every timeout, nobody was panicked. It was real calm on the bench when we were trying to gather ourselves and find a way to make winning plays. It’s a different kind of mood change. It starts with Coach Jackson, the way he breeds confidence in us. As leaders, we try to keep that emotion and positive manner regardless of how the game is going.”
Despite five turnovers in the final quarter—all by Curry—the team got a key stop, forcing Paul Millsap to take a long jumper with the shotclock winding down and 3.9 seconds left in the game.
Iguodala secured the rebound with 3.2 seconds left. Down two, the Warriors took a timeout to set up the final play.
Iguodala inbounded and got the ball to Curry well beyond the arc. Pero Antic left Iguodala to double Curry. The rotation was late, leaving Iguodala with an open three. Curry passed the ball, Iguodala calmly rose up for the uncontested jumper, and the Warriors won their fourth straight on the trip and eighth straight overall.
Asked about what he drew up for the final play, coach Mark Jackson said, “There were options off of it. There were plenty of options off of it. To my guys’ credit, they executed it.”
“That was the third option on the play,” said Curry, “We drew up something to get to the basket. I was the second option at the top of the key to see if I could get a shot off. We had a play, I think against San Antonio a few weeks back, a kind of similar situation with a little less time on the clock, but they doubled off of the inbounder. I didn’t have time to get it to Dre last time, this time I did. He did what he’s done before so many times, regardless of what jersey he’s wearing, making big shots. Turned a bad night into a good one with one shot.”
On his mindset in the final seconds, Curry said, “I was a decoy at first and then it became my play once we didn’t have our first option. Knowing there’s three seconds left, you have time to catch and see what’s going on and just try to make the right play. Once I got the ball in my hands and they jumped off of Iggy, he stepped in. You just play the odds at that point knowing that he’s got a wide open shot and he’s made them before and that’s what he does. So if you give him the ball, he’ll have plenty of time to get a shot off in rhythm. Clutch, clutch, clutch shot by him.”
While Curry praised Iguodala for the game-winner, Jackson gave his point guard just as much credit when talking about the team’s comeback win. “They have no quit. They have high character. They battle. They enjoy one another. When you do the right things, great things happen. For example, Steph Curry didn’t play his best basketball. He’s our best player. But down the stretch, he gives up the basketball. He sacrifices himself and Andre steps into a rhythm jump shot. Just a huge play.”
While Jackson said Iguodala “benefited tonight from having a special guy on the floor,” he also praised the 10th-year swingman’s preparation. “We’ve got guys that put the time in. He’s there…You think that he stumbles into that shot and he’s not afraid of it, but I’m watching him at midnight, taking those same shots,” said Jackson.
While Curry talked about the mindset of a contending team, center Andrew Bogut admitted there’s a little bit of luck involved when everything seems to just click.
“When you’re bad, you find a way to gift wrap it and give it to a team to win,” he said, “When you’re good, you win a game you’re probably not supposed to win. So we’ll keep rolling with the punches.”