Warriors went from underdogs to favorites – to winners
8:08 AM
Art Spander in Andrew Bogut, Mark Jackson, Nuggets, Stephen Curry, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — They kept using the underdog card, telling us nobody expected them to win this first-round NBA playoff series, which is more fiction than fact because once the thing got rolling, and rocking, it was obvious the Golden State Warriors should have been the favorite.
  
Sports is like that, full of people who seem more intent on showing us, proving to the world, that they can succeed than actually succeeding. It’s a crutch many use, so if they fail, well, then they concede, “We weren’t supposed to win anyway.”
  
But on this wild Thursday night, in this sixth game of a first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors in truth weren’t supposed to lose. They weren’t going to lose. And after a 92-88 victory at Oracle Arena that gave them the series, four games to two, it’s time to contemplate the reason as provided by Nuggets coach George Karl.
   
“We didn’t lose the series tonight,” said Karl. His team was the third seed in the Western Conference, the Warriors the sixth seed.
  
“We lost the series in Game 1 and 2. We didn’t play well enough to sustain some confidence. In Game 1, we won a close game. In Game 2, we gave everything back that we worked for 57 (regular season) games to get . . .  We didn’t play well in Game 1. We played worse in Game 2. Then we came in here and fought pretty hard.”
  
Sounds like the underdog, doesn’t it? In retrospect, the way the Warriors performed, turning the odds, upside down, maybe Denver was. The Warriors were exposed, in a positive way, as a team that belongs, a team that deserved to win.
  
Game 6 was a perfect reflection of the series and the NBA, the Warriors coming from behind, the Warriors going far ahead — 18 points — and finally the Warriors holding on.
   
Confetti poured down. Deafening screams resounded, but in truth there surely was as much relief as of elation. Underdog? Favorite? The optimum word might be survivor.
   
“I get emotional,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. He is a pastor. He is religious. He had been fined $25,000 earlier in the day for what the league said were remarks intended to influence the officials.
   
“I think God has a sense of humor,” said the coach-pastor, “because he wanted to show folks at the end as we threw the ball all over the place, and it’s only a miracle that we advanced.”
   
Jackson, who went from a position as a TV commentator to the Warriors job, tends to deal in the dramatic. More often than not he uses the phrase “at the end of the day.” And for this game he brought back forward David Lee, who a couple of weeks ago Warriors management said wouldn’t play again this year because of an injury.
   
A New Yorker, Jackson grew up on the tale of Willis Reed hobbling out of the Madison Square Garden locker room in the 1970 NBA finals, moving into the Knicks lineup and beating the Lakers. Jackson was only five when that occurred, but if he didn’t see it, he heard about it.
 
“I guess the New York City in me,” said Jackson, explaining his decision to use Lee — if only for fewer than two minutes. “The Willis Reed impact as a kid really played a role. Not only did I put Lee in, bit I ran a play for him for a shot, just about where Willis hit his shot.”
    
Great theater, but it was, as always, super guard Stephen Curry and finally hulking 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, who made the difference. In Game 4, Curry scored 22 points in the third quarter. In Game 6 he scored 14 in the third quarter, 22 for the game.
   
Bogut, obtained in a trade a year ago from Milwaukee but seemly recovering forever from a fractured ankle, had 21 rebounds, a career high, 14 points, four blocked shots and three assists.
   
“Bogut,” said Karl, “I’m not worried about him offensively. I mean, he would be their second most valuable player in the series. Curry was fantastic. Bogut’s ability to clog up the middle, you know, I’d forgotten how good he was at it. He’s a veteran player that I think showed a lot of professional class tonight.”
   
The Nuggets, who led by 11 in the first half, had Curry stymied. He had taken a mere six shots and made only one. But then, once more, the telling third quarter. Three 3-pointers, and the small deficit had become a large lead.
   
“I’m just trying to be patient,” said Curry. “The way Denver was defending me, they were trying to run me off the 3-point line a lot, blitzing, a lot of pick-and-rolls, trying to get the ball out of my hands. I try to be aggressive. I don’t want to force any possessions. Third quarter, I got my rhythm.”
   
Curry was asked what went through his mind as the 18-point lead kept shrinking. “Each possession,” he said, “it can’t get any worse than this. Then it does . . . But we got to learn from it.”
   
Underdogs always do. Even when they’re not underdogs.

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