Game after maddening game this season, the Warriors wandered through the schedule, enduring meltdowns and suspensions and despair, all the while hoping for the game when they would be rewarded for their perseverance.
Even when their glory seemed relegated to the past, they always believed there would be a potential breakthrough game. It finally materialized Tuesday night at Chase Center.
The Warriors fell behind by double digits early and recovered. Fell behind by double digits again. Recovered again, this time pushing the game into overtime before a 132-126 toppling of the Boston Celtics in overtime.
For once in what seems like forever, it was the other team blowing sizable leads and walking off in despair.
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“We were due for a game like that,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“It was a gutsy win, to say the least,” Stephen Curry said.
“We knew this already,” Klay Thompson said, “but we have the ability to beat anybody.”
Understand, the Celtics came into the Bay Area with a 20-5 record and sitting atop a strong Eastern Conference. They were third in defensive rating, sixth in offensive rating. Eight weeks into the season, Boston has been everything the Warriors dream of becoming.
Golden State Warriors
When Boston took an 11-point lead in the second quarter, the Warriors wiped it out in less than five minutes. When the Celtics pushed the lead to 13 with 6:07 left in the third quarter on a play that resulted in Curry’s fifth foul, there was momentary lull that led to a 17-point deficit.
But the Warriors kept coming. Curry was superb, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter and OT. Thompson was making shots. Chris Paul was setting up shots for his teammates. Jonathan Kuminga was a force on offense while also harassing Boston star Jason Tatum into 5-of-17 shooting. Rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis was a defensive menace in the paint and on the glass.
“It’s a big deal because of how we got it done,” Curry said. “The guys that were on the floor that contributed. Trayce coming out and the way he impacted the game, JK offensively and defensively, just putting pressure on them, Klay hitting big shots.”
Curry delivered the knockout blow, a rainbow triple with 10.6 seconds left in OT. Kuminga finished with an efficient 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and zero personal fouls despite being assigned mostly to stars Jaylen Brown and Tatum. Jackson-Davis submitted the first double-double of his career, 10 points and 13 rebounds, while also blocking three shots, including a crowd-pleasing dunk attempt by Brown in OT.
Thompson drained six triples while scoring 24 points. Paul recorded 12 assists without a turnover. Dario Šarić drained three triples in the second quarter, when the Warriors went on a 15-2 run to erase an 11-point deficit and take a two-point lead.
“A lot of guys really stepped up and helped us get this game,” Kerr said. “And it feels like this might be the one we need. This could be the game that kind of helps right the ship and hopefully we can settle in now and really get some momentum.”
That, folks, is the question. The Warriors have played 23 “clutch” games, defined as within five points in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime. Wins since the first two weeks were rare while losses came in waves.
Never once have the Warriors shown any indication that they would not climb from the depths to which they had fallen. And now they have a reason to believe they have what it takes to beat a team that is superior by all significant measures.
It is, however, only one game. After three consecutive wins, the Warriors (13-14) still are below .500. Hard decisions lie ahead, which is why Curry glanced toward February (trade deadline), March/early April (playoff sprint) and being a “serious threat” to make a deep playoff run.
“We’re nowhere near that,” Curry said. “We’re just trying to win right now.
“I kind of like it right here because it gives you a little bit of juice to stay locked in for 48 minutes at a time. It’s all clichés, but it really is a fun way to approach the game because you feel a sense of urgency and you’re not really taking anything for granted. And that’s what you saw tonight.”
The Warriors have their first signature win this season. At worst, it’s indicative of their capability. At best, it can ignite the kind of recovery they’ve always had faith in making.