AT&T Center -- The Golden State Warriors had an 18-point lead on the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 in San Antonio - a place that hasn't been kind to the Warriors in 16 years.
The lead appeared insurmountable yet the Spurs stormed back to force double-overtime to escape with a 129-127 win. The Spurs walked off the court jubilant while the Warriors walked off the court looking dejected.
The Spurs turned things around by doing what they used to do best - defense - when it mattered most. After shooting a torrid 70% after three quarters, San Antonio turned up their defense and held Golden State to 25% shooting (5-20) in the fourth, 50% shooting (5-10) in the first overtime, and 37% in the final overtime period en route to an amazing comeback. Add San Antonio finding their shooting stroke when it mattered most in the second overtime (66%) and it was a a night Spurs and Warriors fans will never forget.
Yet despite being down on the scoreboard for most of the game, the Spurs relied on their playoff experience and championship mettle against a young, inexperienced Warriors team to carry them to a thrilling Game 1 win.
"We were down and there weren't many minutes left, but we knew we could do it. We knew we could come back," said Boris Diaw postgame. "We knew it would just take some stops, which we were actually trying to get the whole game. We knew that was the problem, giving them too many open shots. We just did a better job and worked harder at it."
In every aspect of the finals moments in regulation and in double-overtime, the Spurs did what they had to do to get the win. The Spurs closed regulation on an 18-2 run over the final 4:31 of the fourth quarter to force overtime. San Antonio turned the ball over once in the fourth quarter, cranked up the defense on the Warriors in the final period of regulation holding them to 25% shooting, and connected on 6-7 free throws during the fourth.
The Warriors, on the other hand, did things one can expect from a young team. In the final period of regulation, they coughed the all over four times leading to four Spurs' points, went 4-8 from the free-throw line, succumbed to the Spurs' defense (misfiring on 5-20 shots) and had a defensive collapse allowing San Antonio to rattle off 26 points in the crucial fourth quarter.
"Shots were not going down. (We had) a couple of turnovers down the stretch but that wasn't the thing that bothered us. Just staying focused. We can't relax on the defensive end," said Warriors' Jarrett Jack. "I think that was our biggest fault tonight."
"We got a little cold on the defensive end in the fourth quarter and it gave them confidence," said Stephen Curry who finished with a game-high 44 points.
Overall, the Warriors turned the ball over 21 times leading to 21 points for the Spurs - something you cannot do to a veteran club like San Antonio.
"We were careless at time, but I thought it was a great game. We're a young basketball team that will be better at the end of the day for playing against the San Antonio Spurs," said Golden State head coach Mark Jackson.
The Warriors may have dominated many facets of Game 1 such as points in the paint (52-42), rebounds (55-45) and shooting (51%-43%) but it just goes to prove against a battle-tested Spurs team, a team has to play a near-flawless game.
This young Golden State team learned a valuable lesson - no lead is going to be safe against an experienced team like the Spurs in the playoffs. Now the question is whether the Warriors will bounce-back from a demoralizing Game 1 loss?
How the young Warriors respond in Game 2 will be in focus because now they know, this experienced Spurs team took their best punch yet still won the game.
The Spurs will be ready but will the Warriors be?