In the 2013 NBA Playoffs, much of the discussion about the Golden State Warriors has been about their youth, their inexperience, their three-point shooting, and Stephen Curry’s rise to stardom. One aspect of the Warriors’ identity that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough though is their toughness.
The Warriors lost Game 1 in both the Nuggets series and this current series against the Spurs. Although the Warriors’ loss to the Spurs in Game 1 was a little more dramatic and frustrating than the Game 1 loss to the Nuggets, the Warriors came back in Game 2 of both series and made a statement. They showed their maturity by staying aggressive, setting the tempo of the game, building big leads, and eventually getting the win in Game 2 of both series. The Warriors have shown that even though they might be young and inexperienced, they can bounce back from a loss, make adjustments, and stay confident no matter what.
The Warriors have been physically tough too. In much of both series, the Warriors have won both the rebounding and points in the paint matchup, which is astounding given how poorly the Warriors have done in those categories in recent years. A large reason for those advantages is because of Andrew Bogut’s presence, which has altered opposing teams’ ability to score in the paint and rebound. Festus Ezeli has also been impressive on defense, given his ability to block and alter shots. Opposing teams are starting to see how physically tough the Warriors are down in the paint, even without David Lee playing.
Lee was one of the strongest rebounders on the team, so when he went down with his right hip flexor injury in Game 1 against the Nuggets, other players had to step up, such as Bogut, Ezeli, Carl Landry, and Draymond Green. Even Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry helped out on the boards. It took an overall team effort to continue to out-rebound their opponents, but the Warriors kept battling. David Lee’s absence also left the Warriors without one of their main leaders on the team. How did they respond? They didn’t panic, they played as a team, and Curry stepped up and led this team to victory. They stayed mentally tough and found a way to win without one of their leaders and one of their best players on the court.
In addition to Lee’s injury, Bogut and Curry have been dealing with injuries as well. Bogut hasn’t been 100 percent all year because of his slow recovery from his left ankle surgery. Curry badly sprained his left ankle in Game 2. Both Curry and Bogut had to take pain injections during the Nuggets series, but they have played through the pain and have contributed greatly to the team. Other players, such as Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson, have also stepped up because they know that they have to, given Curry and Bogut are not fully 100 percent. The Warriors have shown their toughness and their ability to win despite some serious injuries to key players.
The Warriors have carried over the confidence they gained from winning the last series against the Nuggets into this series against the Spurs. With eight playoff games under their belts, the Warriors have shown that they’ve grown up, and they’re here to compete and to win. After blowing a 16-point lead and ultimately losing in Game 1, the Warriors easily could have lost their confidence and performed poorly in Game 2. Instead, they came back in Game 2 more confident than ever and played like they were the more experienced team in this matchup. In addition, after the Warriors built up a 20-point lead in Game 2 and the Spurs cut the lead to six later, the Warriors didn’t panic like in Game 1. They stayed calm and found a way to win as a team.
Several different Warriors players showed their toughness throughout Game 2. Thompson led the Warriors in the first half with his excellent play on both ends of the court. He defended Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili tremendously, and, in addition to that, he had 29 points in the first half alone. What’s even more impressive though is that he had a game-high 14 rebounds. He also hit a big buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter that helped slow down the Spurs’ run and their momentum going into the fourth quarter. Jarrett Jack hit a few big shots in the fourth quarter too. Jack doesn’t seem to be afraid to take and make a clutch shot when the Warriors really need a basket. Curry also hit a couple of shots in the last five minutes of the game that sealed the win for the Warriors. He had a beautiful finger roll shot with about four minutes left, and then with 1:52 left, he hit a mid-range shot, which ultimately secured the win.
The Warriors’ rookies have also showed their maturity and toughness throughout the playoffs. Harrison Barnes has stepped up and contributed when his team has needed him to, and he’s averaging six rebounds per game in the playoffs, compared to 4.1 rebounds in the regular season. Festus Ezeli has contributed nicely when Bogut is in foul trouble or needs a rest, and he’s defended Tim Duncan nicely. He also is shooting an impressive 85.7 percent from the field. Draymond Green has exceeded expectations throughout the playoffs. He’s averaging 7.4 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, and one block per game on 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three in 21.5 minutes per game. All of these stats are better than his regular season stats, and he’s defended extremely well. He’s also hit some big shots for the Warriors, especially in Game 2 against the Spurs. He hit a big three right after the Spurs cut the Warriors’ lead to six. The poise and toughness that the rookies have shown in these big moments are extremely impressive.
When the Warriors secured the sixth seed and were set to play the Nuggets in the first round, many NBA analysts picked the Nuggets to win. The Warriors proved them wrong. When David Lee was shut down for the remainder of the playoffs, many NBA analysts said the Warriors were done. The Warriors proved them wrong again. NBA analysts continue to pick against the Warriors and deny their recent success. What they can’t deny though is the Warriors’ mental and physical toughness throughout the playoffs.