After what may have been the most important season for the Golden State Warriors since the 1975 championship season, there are surely a few noteworthy moments.
Let’s recap them:
5. Harrison Barnes’ Dunk
Way back in late November, Harrison Barnes announced his presence in the NBA world. Coming off a perfect pass from David Lee, Barnes reared back and punched the ball right onto Nikola Pekovic’s head. Anytime an average-sized small forward throws down a jam on a seven-footer, it’s celebrated.
But this dunk was different.
The way Barnes elevated over the rim and the shot blocker to cock the ball back behind his head, made for a moment that will forever be played in his career highlight reel.
It only took Barnes a few months to show the Warriors they made the right decision to tank for half a season to get him. Barnes’ dunk electrified the crowd, the bench and everyone at home. It was a perfect display of athleticism, coordination, and pure power.
4. Beating the Miami Heat on the road
Surprisingly enough, the ball was in Jarrett Jack’s hands to make a play with the final possession on the road with the game tied in Miami in early December.
After running a series of backdoor screens, Ray Allen and Shane Battier both floated out to the perimeter to guard Klay Thompson’s three-point threat, leaving Draymond Green all alone under the rim. Jack then fired a jump pass right between him and the basket, leading to an easy game-winning layup.
This was one of the signature wins for the 2012-13 Warriors. A back-up guard dishing the ball to a second-round rookie to beat the defending champion Heat. I guarantee you that statement will never be written again under the ‘Big 3′ era.
3. Stephen Curry drops 54 at Madison Square Garden
This was the night everyone on the East Coast went, “That little guy from Davidson? He’s scoring how many against the Knicks?”
Madison Square Garden is a different beast because it brings out the best in some and the worst in others. It is the ultimate spotlight, and only a select few have ever scored more than 50 points against the Knicks at MSG: Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor and LeBron James. Every single one of those players is a Hall of Famer.
Could Curry join that pantheon one day? Only time will tell, but this much is apparent already, he has stars in his eyes when visiting the most iconic arena in all of sports.
2. Klay Thompson’s 29-point half vs. San Antonio Spurs in Conference Semifinals
Klay Thompson took a step onto the national stage when he lit the Spurs up for 29 points in the first half of Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Thompson had it all going that night, the mid-range jumper, the catch-and-shoot three-pointer, he was hitting tough shots in the lane, creating for himself and others off the dribble. It was his best half of basketball of his professional career.
After losing to the Spurs in heartbreaking fashion in Game 1, the Warriors looked to dominate the Spurs in Game 2, and show that they weren’t just happy to be in the second round. Instead, they wanted to do damage and possibly make the Western Conference Finals. Thompson’s scoring explosion put quite a bit of doubt in the Spurs’ mind that the Warriors would be an easy out in the second round because they were a low seed.
1. Upset of Denver Nuggets in Round 1
The Warriors had their most wins since 2007-08. They appeared in the playoffs for the first time since the magical 2006-07 “We Believe” season. They won the most playoff games in 2013 since the 1974-75 championship season. This team was ready to take a step forward, but upsetting the third-seeded Nuggets in six games was the most important thing to happen to this franchise since Joe Lacob bought the team in 2011.
No promises were made before the season, no guarantees about All-Stars, playoff appearances or any kind of postseason play, but this playoff series win justified the Bogut trade and vindicated Bob Myers and the new ownership group.
This is only the first step of many, but due to their playoff success, the Warriors will be getting more national notoriety, more nationally broadcast games, possibly more than one All-Star next year, and with this comes raised expectations. The door to contend was kicked open with the win over the Nuggets, but how long will Myers keep quality players around Curry to potentially compete for an NBA title down the road?