|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2014||[Print without images]|
LOS ANGELES -- It's difficult to choose a "play of the game" in what was such a thrilling, back-and-forth Game 7. DeAndre Jordan's block of Stephen Curry's layup and the ensuing Blake Griffin alley-oop was cuttingly decisive, though. The Warriors never recovered from Lob City's answer to Kobe throwing the alley-oop to Shaq against the Blazers.
Down 1 with two minutes left, Curry split the Clippers defense for what appeared to be an easy layup. An opening was there, Curry tried a reverse angle and a tsunami of DeAndre Jordan engulfed the shot. The ball squirted out, got flung ahead to J.J. Redick, who set up a classic Blake Griffin spike. Curry did not look back on the play with regret, though.
|Stephen Curry had a much easier time on this drive than he did later against DeAndre Jordan.|
"I showed it to one side of the rim, and he was going to go to the other side, and he made a great play," Curry said. "I was able to get downhill and make an aggressive attack to the rim, but he's 7-foot with a long wingspan and he's able to get there pretty quick, so he made a great play. I wouldn't change anything about how that sequence happened."
That phrase, "I wouldn't change anything about how that sequence happened" might as well summarize the series for Golden State. They lost, but it's hard to call them losers. The Warriors didn't have their center, and the Clippers boasted an athletic giant. Golden State made it a series with some small-ball guerrilla warfare, but ultimately they were too thin, too little, to emerge victorious.
Now they're going fishing, and, like in "The Godfather: Part II," there's a good chance the boat returns a little lighter. Mark Jackson has received nothing like the vote of confidence that, say, Frank Vogel received. If Jackson returns, it's an upset more miraculous than if Golden State actually beat the Clippers in a seven-game series.
To be fair, the Warriors players might be more optimistic about the outcome of the coach they've steadfastly defended. After the game, Curry was asked about Jackson potentially losing his job:
"I love coach more than anybody," Curry said. "For him to be in a situation where his job is under question is totally unfair, and it would definitely be a shock to me if anything like that were to happen. I voice my support for coach."
Though he wore a suit fit for a funeral, Mark Jackson remained adamant in pregame that the pressure was on the Clippers. The Warriors validated that sentiment by coming out of the gate loose in the best of senses, scoring 64 first-half points on 41 shots.
The Clippers continued to double-team Curry, and the Warriors leaned on their less heralded players to take advantage. Jordan Crawford had his moments of effective iso-ball, Marreese Speights poured in an unexpected 10 points, and Draymond Green added to his breakout playoff series with five 3-pointers.
It just wasn't enough to overcome a Clippers team that finally got its vintage Chris Paul performance to go along with good games from Jordan and Griffin. The Clippers were briefly shaken by the tumult Donald Sterling caused, but they're hardly beatable when focused and cohesive.
Without Andrew Bogut, it's a surprise the Warriors had anything close to a shot. It's a shock that they might have been a few plays away from yet another first-round upset.
The future is uncertain for this team, but the players would be wrong to fault themselves for that. They were overmatched and eventually overwhelmed in the latest possible stages of this series.
That their coach might be somewhere else next season is hardly a reflection on the guys who fought this matchup to the eventual bitter end. It wouldn't be crazy to assume they know this, that while they won't call this a good series -- due to the outcome -- it was about as good as they could have hoped for. Well, short of winning, that is.