Exciting, yes. Promising, most definitely Gutwrenching, absolutely. Game 2 was one of the best playoff games in NBA history.
Going from up 18 to a last second, double overtime loss, the Golden State Warriors are deflated in their first trip to the second round since 2007. But, who exactly is to blame? There are multiple culprits for this deflating defeat. Jarrett Jack’s turnover prone, hero ball antics. Mark Jackson for not reinserting Andrew Bogut during the final minutes to stop the parade through the lane by Tony Parker and friends. Stephen Curry even is not absolved of blame. He was spectacular, but bad decisions resonate from the closing minutes.
I particular am curious as to why Curry did not pass the ball to a wide open Kent Bazemore during the end of regulation. Not the ideal situation, but nonetheless, a wide open three-pointer to win beats contest garbage turnaround over three people. Otherwise, you cannot fault Curry too much because it was his performance that made this game was more than winnable for the Warriors. But, the main culprit may surprise you.
In my opinion, he was and still is the key for the Warriors in this series. He has bottled up Parker for the most part when he has been matched up against the point guard. So, his poor decision-making and ticky tack fouls forced him from the game late when he was the secondary catalyst to the Warriors’ dominance. You can see the tide turn once he fouls out of the game with 3:57 left in regulation.
The game flow from ESPN.com sort of makes the case. With the red line being where Thompson fouled out, you can see the steep decline and the correlation with Thompson’s exit and Richard Jefferson’s entrance into the game. Thompson’s overall impact on the game is also reflected in the box score. It really jumps out. He posted a plus-minus of plus-14.
Thompson was an obvious cog to success in the series, but his importance may have been underestimated by many. He had a balanced night, chipping in three assists, while shooting 8-for-15 from the field. But it was his ability to make Parker work in the defensive end that, in my opinion, tired Parker out. Once Thompson went to the bench, Parker no longer had to expend energy on the defensive end and proceeded to attack the basket relentlessly.
Conversely, all the weight of the scoring and play making fell to Curry, who had already expended a lot of energy during his 22-point third quarter. In addition, Curry would have to do it with Kawhi Leonard guarding him, who had previously been guarding, you guessed it, Thompson. When you are having such an impact on a game, it is imperative you stay on the floor at all costs. He should know this and his coaching staff and teammates should have been in his ear as well.
This has been a problem for Thompson throughout the season. He picks up silly fouls early in the game and is forced to play cautiously near the end. He admitted as such in the locker room after the game according to multiple reports. In this series, it is imperative that he not reach and use his exceptional quickness and size to limit Parker, as he has shown he is Golden State’s best perimeter defender.
On defense, Thompson needs to be smarter with his body positioning, almost to the point that encourages Parker to take jump shots because he can contest with his length without fouling. Also, you would rather Parker shoot jumpers then gets in the lane because the latter options causes havoc.
Regardless, Thompson may be the key to the series because he creates additional spacing problems defensively for the Spurs, and provides enough versatility to create plays when Curry is trapped.
The Warriors will need to regroup, much they did against the Denver Nuggets. The first round started in a similar fashion with Andre Miller’s game-winner in Denver. Granted, it was not as heart-wrenching because the Warriors never had the lead. This team has been resilient but they will need to make sure they correct these late game miscues or it may be a much shorter series because the Spurs are not as forgiving as the Nuggets.