Who knew? All this time, throughout the Golden State Warriors 16-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs, all the Dubs needed was a pair of sleeves.
Wearing their oft-discussed new uniforms, and without center Andrew Bogut (back spasms), the Warriors (32-23) outlasted the best team in the NBA in overtime by a final of 107-101. It took every ounce of energy the team had, but when the final buzzer sounded, Golden State had perhaps its most impressive win of the season.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, however, it looked like another Spurs (44-13) runaway. San Antonio scored the first 12 points of the final period to open up a 13-point lead. The spurt came without several starters on the floor, and it looked as though it was only a matter of time before the Spurs wrapped up what would have been their league-leading 23rd road victory and their 17th straight triumph over the Warriors.
But Golden State regrouped after a timeout and responded with a 13-0 run of their own to set the tone for the remainder of the contest. From that point on, the Spurs and Warriors fought back and forth and barreled through regulation until Golden State found enough gumption to solve the game away in the final seconds.
The Warriors would not have come close to beating San Antonio without the contributions of David Lee and Jarrett Jack, who each had what one could consider their finest game of the season. Lee more than made up for Bogut’s absence by pulling down 22 (!!!!) rebounds, a new career high. Golden State’s first All-Star in 15 years also scored 25 points and had secured another double-double by halftime. Jack, meanwhile, made every big shot the Warriors could have asked for down the stretch, tallying a game-high 30 points off the bench.
“With all due respect to Jamal Crawford…and J.R. Smith…Jarrett Jack has been the best sixth man in the NBA this year,” Mark Jackson said during his post-game press conference. “He has carried us at times.”
Can anyone outside of Los Angeles or New York argue with Jackson at this point? Jack’s strong numbers off the pine speak for themselves (13.3 points per game, 48 percent from the field), but the “eye test” is all you really need to gauge his impact on the 2012-13 Warriors. The team noticeably perks up when he takes the floor. CSN Bay Area announcer Bob Fitzgerald went as far as to call Jack “the heartbeat of the team.” Again, how much issue can you take with that statement?
Perhaps the only other candidate in that realm is Stephen Curry, who didn’t have his best game but gutted out a game-high 45 minutes, scoring 18 points and dishing out six assists. By game’s end, it was clear that the Warriors’ floor general was fatigued, but it speaks to how seriously Curry takes his role as team leader that he did not exit the game. It was Curry who hit two big free-throws in the final seconds with Golden State only up one. Moments later, the game was over.
There were minor defensive breakdowns throughout the game, but it’s hard to nitpick when the Spurs come to town. San Antonio is as close to a flawlessly-coached basketball team as there is in the NBA, and they nearly stole yet another road win despite not playing as well as they could have. The Warriors simply made more plays at the end than Tim Duncan and company, proving, as we’ve discovered time after time this season, that they don’t back down from anyone. It’s that above anything else that will be most important if and when the playoffs roll around.
Well, maybe except for the sleeves.