This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The Golden State Warriors lost a heartbreaking battle in Game 7 of their first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Some might classify this season for the Warriors as “disappointing,” because, with that Game 7 loss, they failed to advance the Western Conference semifinals after doing so last season. However, this is far from the truth.
The Warriors’ franchise had been stuck in mediocrity or the basement of the NBA for so long, so to see a Warriors team in a Game 7 and with that strong of a desire to put up a fight for all 48 minutes was absolutely inspiring and far from disappointing. The Warriors displayed that fight and determination throughout the 2013-2014 season.
The Warriors were the underdogs going into this series, and as usual, not one ESPN analyst picked them to win this series. The Warriors perform best when they’re underestimated though. They showed in this series against the Clippers that they have the ability to overcome being the less talented team in a series with their heart, team chemistry, and motivation.
Both teams faced adversity in this series. The Clippers went through a devastating scandal involving their owner, Donald Sterling. It completely changed their franchise, and it affected their focus at points in the series.
However, the Warriors had to face adversity as well. Before the playoffs started, Andrew Bogut fractured his rib and was ruled out of the playoffs. Based on his significant impact in the playoffs last season, this was a huge blow to the Warriors. Their confidence didn’t waver though.
Without Bogut, the Warriors easily could’ve lost this series in four games. The fact that they were able to push this series to seven games without their defensive anchor, their rim protector, their hard screen setter, and their token tough guy was extremely impressive on many levels.
The Warriors can learn a lot from this season, and they can take a lot away from their Game 7 loss.
First of all, the Warriors proved in the playoffs that they are truly a tough team. Bogut’s emergence as an extremely effective defensive anchor certainly added toughness, but the Warriors were still viewed as a “fake tough” or “soft” team by many other NBA teams this season. The way the Warriors battled with the Clippers, matched their physicality, and weren’t afraid of the Clippers’ size in the frontcourt showed that they are one of the toughest teams in the NBA.
Draymond Green is a significant part of their newly established toughness. He is the ultimate competitor, teammate, and enforcer out on the court. He isn’t afraid of anything, and he’s a winner. The Warriors’ toughness as a team really showed when Green was put in the starting lineup.
Second, Mark Jackson has been heavily criticized this season, but he showed in the playoffs why he’s the right coach for this team. This article isn’t about why Jackson needs to remain the Warriors’ head coach (more on this later…), but we’ll get into a few reasons why he should stay now.
One of the biggest criticisms about Jackson has been his questionable rotations and allocation of minutes. As the series progressed, Jackson decided to go with a small-ball lineup by starting Green, and he played Harrison Barnes more as a stretch four. He also moved away from his lineups of just bench players and mixed in his starters well. Jackson made the proper adjustments, and he should be commended for that.
The Warriors also played so hard throughout the series and never gave up, despite being overmatched at times. This type of determination and fearlessness should be partially attributed to Jackson. He inspires this team to be the best that they can be.
Many players, including Stephen Curry, stepped up in crunch time and proved to not be afraid of the big moment. That is a testament to Jackson’s personality, coaching, and confidence in his players. With Jackson’s guidance, Curry truly grew into a leader for this team, and he led this team’s fight to prove themselves.
Third, as mentioned before, the Warriors proved that they possibly have the most heart of any team in the NBA. They played a near perfect game of basketball in Game 7, and even though they didn’t reign victorious, they showed that they will never give up, no matter what.
What should be remembered about their Game 7 loss and their 2013-2014 season in general is the determination and the fight that they showed on a regular basis.
This Warriors team is hungry, and they will certainly make another run in the playoffs next season. Who knows how far the Warriors could’ve gone with Bogut healthy, and if Bogut is healthy next season, this Warriors team will be even more dangerous.
Entering this season, many people put high expectations on the Warriors. Although the Warriors might not have met those unfair expectations, they set up even bigger expectations for next season based on their performance in this series, and that is a big accomplishment and a testament to Coach Jackson.
Warriors fans should be incredibly proud of this Warriors team. Game 7 was an unforgettable battle that showed this team’s identity and heart to everyone in the NBA. Warriors fans should be excited for next season. The Warriors will be stronger and even more determined than ever.