After battling for eight hard-fought quarters with every ounce of sweat they had on back-to-back nights, the Warriors walked away on Wednesday night with nothing to show for in the win column.
Going up against the team with the best defensive efficiency in the league, the Warriors experienced the kind of pressure and effort on defense that will be brought to the floor every night of the playoffs in their 108-97 loss.
Being involved in an altercation that escalates to the level where players are suspended no doubt brings a team closer together. The Warriors have each other's backs. When someone pushes David Lee as hard as Roy Hibbert did, it's on. There was a fire inside of Stephen Curry's eyes that we had not seen before when he went after Hibbert in a real-life David vs. Goliath fight.
Curry decided to bring that same fire to Madison Square Garden one night later.
After learning of a $35,000 fine and the one-game suspension of his All-Star teammate Lee, Curry took out his anger on the court and unleashed the performance of a lifetime. He erupted for 54 points, seven assists and six rebounds on 18-of-28 from the field, including 11-of-13 from downtown. Wow.
Not to mention, Curry's performance the night before was not much worse, it was just largely overshadowed by the brawl. Against the Pacers, Curry had 38 points on 14-of-20 shooting and went 7-of-10 from three-point range. That makes for 18-of-23 from long distance over the past two nights.
To say that this man is hot would be a wild understatement.
Another revelation from these past two games for Stephen Curry is the aggressive demeanor that he has possessed. The Warriors need that. As great as Jarrett Jack has been as the fourth quarter go-to scorer the whole year, they need Steph to be that guy.
At MSG on Wednesday, he wanted the ball in his hands. He wanted to take and make the big shot in crunch time. It was almost like a flashback to his Davidson days where you knew that he was going to shoot, but there was simply nothing you could do. If he can keep that attitude throughout the rest of the season, who knows how far he can take this team.
Nonetheless, the Warriors should be proud of how close they came to beating one of the Eastern Conference's top teams on the road. Had a suspended Lee and an injured Andrew Bogut (back spasms) been the starting frontcourt instead of Draymond Green and Andris Biedrins, Curry's historic night probably would have ended on a positive note.
But these are the games that the Warriors will learn from as they prepare for the playoffs. The Pacers and Knicks currently sit in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions in the East and provided a good preview of how intense these games will be on a nightly basis once the regular season ends.
Heading into Boston on Friday and Philadelphia on Saturday to finish up this five-game road trip, the Warriors will think back to the fiery emotions of the fight with the Pacers and the gut-wrenching feeling of the close loss to the Knicks and use it as motivation to head back to the Bay Area with two wins.
After that, the Warriors will come home to Oracle Arena for 16 of their final 22 games and hopefully bring the franchise their second playoff appearance in 19 seasons. If that indeed happens, there is no question that the Warriors will look back at this road trip as a key point where they grew closer as a unit and became more mature.
In 2007, the motto was "We Believe." This team is different. In 2013, "We Belong."