Steph Curry proved that he is the Warriors leader.
The Golden State Warriors far exceeded everyone’s expectations this season, but we learned a lot about this team from their second-round playoff series.
At the start of the series, the Dubs came out of the gate flying by dominating the tempo, spacing and shot selection. By the end of the series, the team looked flat-out gassed and was being hypnotized by the more experienced San Antonio Spurs.
The Warriors showed they could hang with the big boys, especially against a team that has dominated them for so long. They finally got that long sought-after win in San Antonio, a place they had not won since the last century.
The first two games of the series showed the potential of this team. They ran the Spurs, passed effectively and made key shots. Before he ran out of gas in the series, Klay Thompson put his face on the national map by exploding for 34 points and 14 boards in the Game 2 win.
As you can see from the highlights, Thompson had fresher legs and was a deadly marksman behind the arc. As the series progressed and the Spurs made adjustments, Thompson was less effective.
The series also showed growth by Steph Curry. His third-quarter pinball shows got fewer and fewer after Game 1, while he had to play through the nagging pain of an ankle tweaked in Game 3.
Curry is the franchise's leader. He stepped up and played huge in the wins, but he also took full blame for the loss in Game 5.
Curry has bought in to the Warriors future, and he is their marketable star—the player who will take this young, burgeoning team to the next plateau, even if he has to play through the pain.
After setting the NBA record for three-pointers in a season, you can expect more splashing of the nets when the game is on the line.
He is money from behind the arc, but he really showcased his ability to bang around with the big guys and make shots inside.
The Spurs made the necessary adjustments and took hold of the series after Game 2. The Warriors couldn’t recapture their free-flowing offense, even after the series shifted to Oakland.
The Warriors played from behind the rest of the way, and if not for a dramatic comeback in Game 4, the Spurs could have run away with the series. The key element in that Game 4 comeback was rookie Harrison Barnes, who showed his tremendous potential in this series.
Barnes took control and started a fourth-quarter comeback that brought energy back to the Oracle crowd. He showed that he has the tools to be a very good player, especially when he was isolated against Tony Parker and made a spin move to the basket.
Barnes made some clutch shots from behind the arc, and he also made key baskets off the dribble and by moving without the ball. He wasn’t rattled during the series and seemed to always make an athletic move.
His second-quarter injury in Game 6 really put the Warriors in a bad spot, since they didn’t have anyone to replace his dynamic abilities, and Thompson had more or less disappeared.
Andrew Bogut also went missing, as his lingering ankle injury kept him out of the fourth quarter when the Warriors had a chance to tie the game. He was a key factor during the series, providing a true defensive presence.
Bogut proved to Warrior fans that the trade that changed the organization was worth getting rid of Monta Ellis. Despite the somewhat small sample, Bogut made key blocks, grabbed the difficult rebounds and spaced out the floor.
He was also a factor on the offensive end, as shown in this video:
With an offseason to rest his ankle, Bogut can amp up his play to really take the team to the next level. He showed in this series how valuable he is in the frontcourt even when only 75 percent healthy.
The biggest lesson that was learned from this series is that the Golden State Warriors have a huge heart and will continue to fight to the very end. All of the players believe in Coach Mark Jackson’s philosophy and went out and executed to the best of their ability.
This team is tough and will fight through injuries as evidenced by what we saw in the series. Bogut and Curry played hurt; David Lee miraculously contributed after what was assumed to be a season-ending injury; Barnes shook off the hard fall to come back for the third quarter before departing for good with a headache.
The foundation is set for many years of playoff success, especially with the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins coming off the books next season. The team should be set to contend again next season and finish with a top-four record in the Western Conference.
This is Warriors basketball. Believe it.
Follow me @ScottInTheBay