After Game 2, Klay Thompson was excited about taking the series to Oakland, where the Warriors would enjoy one of the NBA’s best home-court advantages. And it was quite an atmosphere indeed, everybody in yellow and screaming, the decibels reaching higher than 100.
But as the clock ran out, those yellow shirts had been replaced by black chairbacks, the fans filing out like ants, having seen their team coldly bludgeoned in Game 3, a calculated response by San Antonio who had seen Thompson and Curry take turns setting them on fire in Games 1 and 2 and had seen just about enough of that crap.
The Spurs won 102-92 Friday in Oakland, re-taking control (2-1) of a series they looked well on their way to losing just two days earlier. They did it with two great performances: (1) Tony Parker’s 32 points and five assists and (2) Danny Green’s defense on Curry.
Parker had 25 points at halftime, nearly outscoring Golden State’s entire starting lineup (26). Two days after hearing Golden State coach Mark Jackson declare, for a second time, that the Warriors had the best-shooting backcourt of all time, Parker shot 13 for 23 and made a shot every bit as improbable as anything Curry hit in Game 1, a falling, desperate bank shot he just threw up as he was getting fouled.
Two days after Jackson’s declaration, Curry and Thompson went a combined 12 for 37, that having a lot to do with Green, who just chased Curry and chased him and chased him and stayed in his space. The Warriors shot 39 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3-point line.
On the other side, Parker loudly outplayed everybody on Golden State’s roster and Tim Duncan quietly had 23 points and 10 rebounds at age 37.
He did not seem to be affected by the crowd.
The corners of Parker’s mouth turned up as he offered his explanation.
“Effort and energy,” he said. “It sounds simple.”
The Spurs likely will never admit this, but they bore themselves sometimes. They’re scientists, and they’ve got the formula down pat. Just watching them can sometimes feel tedious, so imagine what it must be like to play 82 games, win about 60 of them (because you don’t need to win 65), then get into a playoff series against a young team that likes to shoot a bunch of 3s. And you know you can beat this team, it’s just a matter of having your coffee, straightening your tie and doing it.
Effort and energy. It sounds simple because it is.
That’s an intentional oversimplification of the series, but you can’t say the Spurs are not conservationists when it comes to effort and energy. This is a team that is so good and knows itself so well that it will routinely rest its best players on nights when winning now isn’t as important as being rested for later. This is a team that has spent all season trying to get to the Finals without overexerting itself along the way.
It is not crazy to think the reason the first two games of the series went the way they did is that San Antonio miscalculated just how hard it was going to be to dispatch the Warriors. The loss in Game 2, then, had a recalibrating effect, and we have for the first time seen the Spurs team we will see the rest of the series.
This is not to say Golden State can’t win. Thompson and Curry aren’t going to stay cold, but the Spurs are awake now. All the way awake.
Awakened by a 100-decibel crowd, and the gnawing, annoying idea that Golden State’s backcourt was the only one that had mad game.