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Golden boys

Warriors revel in historic playoff upset of Mavericks

Posted: Friday May 4, 2007 3:52AM; Updated: Friday May 4, 2007 1:30PM
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Even through year after year in the draft lottery, Jason Richardson kept believing the Warriors would reach the playoffs.
Even through year after year in the draft lottery, Jason Richardson kept believing the Warriors would reach the playoffs.
John W. McDonough/SI
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OAKLAND -- It ended and there was Don Nelson waiting to start his press conference, looking at a TNT feed and seeing Charles Barkley wearing a yellow "WE BELIEVE" T-shirt. Nelson cackled long and hard, then raised his Bud Light and called out, "The Chuckster!"

One hundred yards away, the Warriors players were back on the court, all wearing their own WE BELIEVE T-shirts and leading the still-raucous Oracle Arena crowd in cheers whilst Andris Biedrins galloped around the court waving a giant Warriors flag. This was genuine elation, professional athletes returned to their roots, before the money and preening and all that, a bunch of 9-year-old boys who'd just beaten the 12-year-olds. Skipping back to the locker room, Matt Barnes summed it up as he high-fived friends and teammates. "Hell yeah, mothertruckers," he said to one and all. Only he didn't say it quite like that.

You think maybe this was sweet for Golden State?

The momentum shift happened so fast that it was anti-climactic, a back-and-forth game suddenly transformed into a rout with a final score of 111-86. It was due in large part to a man who might have been the league's most reviled only four months ago.

Behold, the redemption of Stephen Jackson. Perhaps not as a human being, for that can not be accomplished on a hardwood floor, but at least as a basketball player. Jackson hit his first seven 3-pointers, and 7 of 8 overall, and finished with 33 points and five rebounds. More important, he hit them at key moments. It was 56-54 with 9:11 in the third quarter. Five minutes later, with 4:02 remaining, the score was 75-57. During that stretch Jackson scored 15 points.

One of Jackson's faults is he tends to take a handful of bad shots every game -- a fault moderated when he came to the Warriors, because the sheer number of possessions meant those bad shots weren't as harmful as when he took them in Indiana -- but Thursday night's shots were all good ones. Feet set. Lined up. His 3-pointer looks like a very long free throw when he's got it going; no extraneous movement. Of course, it might have been different had the Mavs extended and got a hand up.

Jackson also continued his lockdown defense on Dirk Nowitzki (2-13 shooting, eight points), crowding him constantly. Before Game 4, a Warriors coach told me the staff thought Nowitzki was scared of Jackson; he certainly looked it. Robbed of the ability to drive -- because the double team came immediately -- Nowitzki had to try to shoot over the Warriors, and he couldn't, or wouldn't, do it. Jackson made him look miserable.

Jackson wasn't the only Warrior who had a standout game; three others in particular made a difference. Biedrins showed impressive poise for such a green player. He posted a double-double and even hit 4 of 6 free throws. (One of the largest cheers of the night came with 3:07 left in the third quarter after the Mavs fouled Biedrins off the ball to put him on line, and he made both. Neither appeared to gain more than an inch of clearance over the rim).

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