Golden State Warriors Playoffs 2014: Ready To Shine In The Bright Lights (Photo: via SFxOAK.com)
WARRIORS PRACTICE FACILITY, OAKLAND, CA — In the past two days at the Golden State Warriors practice facility, the phrase “bright lights” has been uttered on more than one occasion.
For a team that surprised everyone in the NBA last season by defeating the heavily favored Denver Nuggets, the center stage seems to be the place that the Warriors relish.
Stephen Curry reflected back on last year’s playoff performance and what it might mean for this year’s.
“You’re so amped up and you gotta realize that each possession is important,” Curry said, “It’s really, really tough to win four games against a team and we have to value each possession. That’s the biggest lesson we learned last year against the Spurs. We outplayed them, really two-and-a-half straight games — almost three games — and we could only get one win out of it. So we have to finish games out playing the full forty-eight minutes on both ends of the floor and really know your opponent well and what their strengths are and try to limit them.”
This season marks the tenth time out of his eighteen-year career that Jermaine O’Neal has been to the playoffs.
“It’s easy to look at a piece of paper that says what you have to do, but when those lights come on and the world is watching, things tend to change a little bit,” O’Neal said, “We’re starting off on the road so we have to be able to take an initial blow of a team that likes to get up and down, a team that likes to get their crowd involved very quickly. If that happens in the first quarter, we’ve got to just sustain that run, that blow, and then make sure we don’t get out of character and start doing things that we’re not necessarily capable of doing.”
Curry has noticed a little twinkle in O’Neal’s eye, especially now that Andrew Bogut is out and Coach Mark Jackson has already announced that O’Neal will start at the center position.
“I don’t know the last time he was in the playoffs, but I’m sure he’s relishing this opportunity and something he envisioned when he signed that contract with our team,” Curry said, “We’re going to need him now even more so without Bogut.”
The team has also needed Draymond Green who hit a step-back three-pointer to send the game against the Portland Trail Blazers into overtime, as well as a tip-in of a missed free throw to seal the last game of the season against the Denver Nuggets
“I like the big moment, but when opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of it,” Green said, “I’m not going to always be the guy who gets the shot in the big moment, but I just like to make plays in the big moment and that’s not always scoring. It could be setting a screen, it could be getting a rebound, whatever that is, I’ve always thrived in those moments.”
None better the past several games for the Warriors has been Curry himself, who has been performing at extremely high clip to close out the season, save for the game in Denver in which many of the starters sat out.
“They say the great players rise in the big moments and as the moments get better, he rises more,” Green said, “So we’ll see if he can bring his playoff heroics again like he did last year.”
Jackson is proud that his team has earned the moment to be in the spotlight.
“Well, it’s a player league. I’ve got an incredible group of players that have bought in from Day One and have fought all the obstacles, all the adversity, and, quite honestly, all the history,” Jackson said, “They’ve responded. They’ve been great and they deserve this moment. If I’ve got to go with a group, this would be the group. I’m thrilled the to death that they have this platform and this opportunity, and against this opposition, because it’s a legit opposition.”
Asked if there was pressure on him and the team to perform in this highly touted first-round matchup, Jackson replied, “There’s no question when you prepare, when you believe, there’s no pressure. I’ve got an incredible group of guys that have worked their tails off, that’s prepared for the moment, and they embrace the light. We certainly have a challenge in front of us, but we’re excited about that I think this is a tremendous platform for my guys and I’m looking forward to it.”