Let’s face it. The Warriors on Monday night played one of the worst halves of basketball we’ve ever seen, chucking up 13 three-pointers and hitting exactly zero to start.
But no one was worried. My wife calmly told me: “They got this.”
Now, I grew up in a place where all the teams were putrid. If they started off a game like that, it was certain we would lose. In fact, if we went into the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead, I was pretty confident my team would blow it.
That’s not the case with these Warriors. Despite their awful performance in the first half, they managed to eke out a three-point victory, 101-98, over the Grizzlies in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinal playoffs at Chase Center. The win puts them in a position to close out the series Wednesday night in Memphis, holding a 3-1 lead, facing a talented Grizzlies team that’s given Golden State everything it can handle.
But I’m guessing many Warriors fans were never worried about this one. It looked ugly, but the boys kept it close. This is a team that historically overcomes insurmountable odds, using the three-point shot and a stifling defense as crippling weapons to slay postseason opponents. Now that they’re relatively healthy this postseason, the equation is coming into focus. It’s just a matter of time before a flurry of three-pointers and defensive stops will turn the tide.
No one personifies this attack more then Steph Curry, a legend we’ve all watched now for 13 years. A pure assassin with daggers in his eyes and ice in his veins. His fourth quarter performance Monday, scoring 18 points to lead the Warriors to victory, epitomized his championship pedigree. The man couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the night, so he took the game to the free-throw line, where he buried the Grizzlies in a storm of late-game swoosh.
Standing next to Steph, more often than not, is Draymond Green, the mercurial heart and soul of the team who possesses the rare combination of basketball genius and emotional infancy. Draymond managed to control his temper Monday, and his foul-prone aggressiveness, to stick around the court and seal the deal with a late-game block that sent Curry to the line for yet another pair of shots from the charity stripe.
Sprinkle in some late-game magic from Klay Thompson and you have the recipe for championship blood. The Warriors are for real, once more, fans. Cancel your vacation plans until June. The Big Three have other plans for you.
Curry laid it out in the post-game, cementing my thesis about Warriors confidence. This team is never out of it. Down 12 in the fourth quarter, it was only a matter of a few possessions.
“When you come into a fourth quarter with no flow offensively and you’re still within, you know, three or four possessions of coming back … there’s some motivation behind that,” said Curry. “We’ve been here before and we know how to pull off games like this. It’s just about how you approach it and we made that happen.”
His fellow Splash Brother put it into further perspective, earned over a career filled with postseason triumph.
“The shots were not falling like we wanted them to,” said Thompson. “But that’s just Steph. He has that mindset where he is the best shooter of all time. It just takes one good look at the rim or free-throw line, and when that happens, the floodgates open. We stuck with it tonight as a whole. I’m very proud of the way everyone competed. During this time of the year, some days are going to be ugly offensively. But we really got gritty on the defensive end and willed it out.”
Indeed, they know how to pull these games off. And now they’ll try to do it again in Memphis Wednesday night, most likely without head coach Steve Kerr, who sat out Monday’s win with a COVID diagnosis. No worries Warriors fans. The ultimate assistant, Mike Brown, can step in to coach again. And Curry, Thompson and Green will lead their band of facilitating teammates, including Jordan Poole and Otto Porter, Jr., into battle with a closeout in mind.
It’s been a hard-fought series, pitting a young upstart against a veteran champion. But my wife’s right. The Warriors got this.
The Arena, a column from The Examiner’s Al Saracevic, explores San Francisco’s playing field, from politics and technology to sports and culture. Send your tips, quips and quotes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for his weekly newsletter here. And follow him on Twitter @alsaracevic.