NEW ORLEANS -- It’s tempting to reduce this incredible Golden State Warriors comeback to one majestic Stephen Curry 3-pointer in the corner. After all, he’s the superstar, probable MVP and he swished a shot that eluded physics on its way to floating over the colliding limbs of Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans.
That was the culmination, but it wasn’t the comeback. The actual comeback that made such a genius stroke possible was a group effort, emphasis on the “effort.” After Ryan Anderson hit a 3-pointer to put the New Orleans Pelicans up 17 with six minutes left, the Warriors yanked the game away from the Pelicans, one desperate offensive rebound at a time in a 123-119 overtime win that put the Warriors up 3-0 in the series.
This was an abnormal comeback in that much of it was predicated on misses. Five such misses came by the hand of Curry, and four such misses were turned into points off offensive rebounds. In total, the Warriors had seven offensive rebounds in the final six misses of regulation -- two more than the Pelicans had total rebounds in that segment. The clichés about heart, grit and tenacity might have applied on Thursday night. Golden State’s veterans summoned a yearning that the Pelicans just couldn’t match. And they grabbed these rebounds with their biggest player, Andrew Bogut, sitting on the bench. Green, who’s the exact same height as their shooting guard, played center.
As Davis said at the podium, “No one player’s going to win the game.” The Warriors might have the MVP, but they’re more than just the MVP. After the game, Draymond Green, who wrested three of those final seven offensive boards, credited Marreese Speights for setting up Curry’s coup de grace after an offensive rebound of his own. Green yelled across the room to the smiling Speights, “I’m good at throwing lobs!”
In the locker room, Speights talked about trust, because he couldn’t find another explanation for why Warriors coach Steve Kerr put him back in the game. He’d been having a nightmare performance before that play -- two points on seven shots, with four fouls. He hadn’t expected Kerr to put him back in when it all was on the line, saying of his spot on the bench, “It was dark over there. I thought it was night-night.” After Curry’s 3 forced overtime, Speights was sure the game was in hand: “The fans, everybody was hit.”
Curry also credited Mo’s moment, saying, “Speights made a huge play to get that rebound and had the wherewithal and composure to grab it, take a dribble and figure out what was going on, and he saw me relocate to the corner.” Upon release of the shot, Davis and Evans collided with Curry, who watched the ball sail from a small window between their bodies. “I got to see it go in, which was a good feeling.” The preceding feelings weren’t so sanguine, but Curry insisted, “We never got too down on ourselves.”
Had they caved, it would have been understandable. The Warriors were out of sorts most of the game, offensively and defensively. They were stymied by New Orleans switching pick-and-rolls, and bricking everything they shot over Davis. Kerr said, “It was as bad a game as I have seen us play in a long time, and a lot had to do with them. They had us really scattered at both ends.”
Davis was lofting skill shots over defenders. Evans was knifing to the rim at will. Anderson was hitting one-legged, Dirk Nowitzki fadeaways. It was a total deluge.
Somehow, some way the Warriors survived it. In Kerr’s opinion, the comeback was indivisible from what caused its necessity. “They have great confidence, sometimes too much confidence, which is probably what got us in trouble in the first place. We try to walk the line between being explosive and being a little careless.”
A team’s weakness can suddenly double as its strength when you least expect. In basketball, everything is connected. The Warriors have a brilliant individual performer in Curry, but his performances do not exist in a vacuum. They’re tangled up in a collective that refused to let his misses be the reason for defeat in this game. He, in turn, rewarded their support by hitting one of the biggest shots of his life.