One of my favorite hobbies during any Golden State Warriors game is to check Twitter, then try to guess the score.
Sunday afternoon, Dub Nation was acting like the sky was falling.
No, they weren’t on the verge of falling down three games to one against the Sacramento Kings. Their heroes faced an unfathomable four-point halftime deficit, then committed a turnover to open the third quarter and fell behind by seven after Harrison Barnes drained a 3-pointer.
You would think it was the end of the world. A team armed with two of the best 3-point shooters of all time trailed by seven with more than 23 minutes of basketball remaining.
As Kings guard Kevin Huerter recently detailed on his podcast, The Old Terps, a single possession in an NBA game doesn’t mean all that much. In a 48-minute game with a 24-second shot clock, there are more than enough chances to recuperate from a bad possession.
Sure enough, the Warriors did recover from that insurmountable deficit, outscoring Sacramento by 17 over the rest of the quarter to take a 102-92 lead. Yes, the Kings briefly pulled ahead early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win at the buzzer after Stephen Curry tried to call a timeout his team didn’t have, à la Chris Webber in the Final Four. It could have been an all-time collapse.
But it wasn’t. Curry and Klay Thompson proved why only fools bet against them. It’s now a best-of-three series, and Golden State still has to pull a game out on the road against a Kings team bolstered by a fanbase that hasn’t tasted playoff basketball since 2006. The Warriors only won 11 road games all year, mostly against teams hoping for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft or, like earlier this month in Sacramento, against a team resting its starters.
Don’t get freaked out by that road record, which now sits at an unsightly 11-32. The Warriors have won at least one road playoff game in each of their last 27 playoff series. Golden State’s last playoff series without a road victory was against the Utah Jazz in 2007, when George W. Bush had barely passed the midpoint of his second term as president.
If the Warriors do steal one at Golden 1 Center, Game 6 is hardly a certainty. Sacramento has been a good road team all year and is due to win one at Chase Center, where they last tasted victory on Feb. 25, 2020—a simpler time when nobody cared who their county’s health officer was.
These next two or three games are going to be far from easy. De’Aaron Fox has looked like a star all series, and Malik Monk is finally living up to the hype attached to him in high school. Huerter has still yet to take off, scoring just two points on Sunday. If he picks it up, Sacramento will be an offensive juggernaut.
But experience matters, and the Warriors have been there before. Sunday was Steve Kerr’s 131st playoff game as head coach. The four playoff games that Mike Brown has coached this series are his first as a head coach since 2012. It was Thompson’s 149th playoff game, Draymond Green’s 148th and Curry’s 138th. Sacramento’s entire starting lineup now has 120 combined games of playoff experience, and 68 of those are from Barnes. All 64 of his playoff games before this series were in a Warriors uniform.
Experience isn’t an automatic bailout. But it also doesn’t hurt. Sure, the Warriors have shown no ability to stop Fox, and late-game decision making has been shaky. There are cracks that need to be patched up.
But why would you bet against these guys, when all they’ve done is win? Kerr has never lost a playoff series to a Western Conference team. Curry and Thompson haven’t done so since 2013.
Counting this team out any time before the final buzzer is a mistake. Especially if they’re only down by seven early in the third quarter.
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