Shortly after the Warriors beat the Spurs 113-111 on Sunday afternoon to take a 1-0 lead in the 2017 Western Conference Finals, all anyone wanted to talk about was the injury Kawhi Leonard suffered during the game. And for good reason. Leonard injured his ankle during the third quarter after he landed on Golden State center Zaza Pachulia’s foot after taking a jump shot, and it could sideline him for Game 2 of the series, if not longer. And when you couple that with the fact that some NBA fans believe Pachulia may have tried to injure Leonard on purpose, it’s no wonder why people couldn’t stop talk about the injury following the game.
But Leonard’s injury wasn’t the only notable thing to happen during Game 1 of the WCF. The Warriors also managed to overcome a 25-point deficit during the contest to eek out a win at the end. After scoring just 42 points in the first half to fall behind by 20 at intermission, the Warriors outscored the Spurs 71-49 in the second half, scoring almost at will against one of the NBA’s better defenses en route to earning a hard-fought victory. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant finished with 40 and 34 points, respectively, and allowed their team to assume control over the WCF after the first game of the series. It also helped Golden State make franchise history:
Many NBA fans argued that the Warriors’ comeback was a foregone conclusion after Leonard left the game. Leonard is obviously the Spurs’ best defender, and he also had 26 points in just 24 minutes before leaving due to his ankle injury. So some people think the Warriors wouldn’t have stood a chance if Leonard had been able to play the final quarter and a half:
But is everyone slighting the Warriors by making that suggestion? Over the last few seasons, the Warriors have gotten into the habit of making spectacular comebacks in the face of adversity (to be fair, they’ve also been a part of one of the biggest collapses in NBA history, but… we’ll save that for another day). In fact, they completed one of the more improbable comebacks of the 2016-17 NBA regular season back in March when they spotted the Spurs 22 points during the first quarter of a game in San Antonio before rebounding to win 110-98. And the Spurs had both Leonard and Tony Parker—who suffered a season-ending injury during San Antonio’s playoff series against the Rockets—in the lineup for the majority of that game. So who’s to say the Warriors wouldn’t have been able to put together another comeback effort on Sunday even if Leonard hadn’t been injured?
There’s no way of knowing. But if the Warriors have proved anything over the last few seasons, it’s that no lead is safe when you’re playing against them. They seem to know how to flip the switch and put together epic comeback efforts whenever they want to. Here are some of the craziest comebacks they’ve made in recent years.
Warriors vs. Raptors
Largest deficit: 27 points
Final score: 112-103
Wait, how did that happen?! The Raptors led by 18 heading into the fourth quarter before the Warriors outscored them 42-15 to end the game. Curry finished with 27 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, and Golden State shot the ball so well that Toronto didn’t record a single defensive rebound in the final frame.
Warriors vs. Celtics
Largest deficit: 26 points
Final score: 106-101
Wait, how did that happen?! Boston jumped all over Golden State at the start of this game and went up by 26 with about seven minutes still to go in the second quarter. But the Warriors managed to trim the lead to 16 by halftime before pouncing all over the Celtics in the second half and tying the game up with about four minutes to go in the game. Curry finished with 37 points and had the hot hand for the team through the second half, but it was Draymond Green who sparked the comeback with energetic plays on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter.
Warriors vs. Pelicans
Largest deficit: 20 points
Final score: 123-119
Wait, how did that happen?! The Warriors trailed by 20 heading into the fourth quarter before outscoring New Orleans 39-19 in the final frame. Curry finished with 40 points for the game and made a clutch three-pointer with just a few seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Prior to this game, the Warriors franchise had been in 358 games in which they trailed by 20 heading into the fourth quarter and hadn’t won a single one of them.
Warriors vs. Clippers
Largest deficit: 23 points
Final score: 124-117
Wait, how did that happen?! The Warriors, who were 12-0 at this point in the 2015-16 NBA season, looked like they were in danger of suffering their first defeat of the year when the Clippers jumped out to a 55-32 lead midway through the second quarter. But Golden State climbed back within 18 at the half and then outscored the Clippers 70-49 in the second half to win easily and inch closer towards the NBA record for most consecutive games won to start a season. They eventually set the record by starting 24-0.
Warriors vs. Trail Blazers
Largest deficit: 16 points
Final score: 119-113
Wait, how did that happen?! Although a 16-point comeback might not seem like much when you consider some of the other comebacks listed here, consider this: The Warriors were without Durant, Shaun Livingston, and Matt Barnes during this game. They were also without their head coach Steve Kerr for the first time this postseason (Kerr hasn't coached the team since Game 2 of this series). And they were facing a really desperate Portland team that was looking to avoid falling behind 3-0. But Curry dropped 34 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to dig Golden State out of a hole and to prove, once again, that no lead is safe against them, even when they’re just a shell of themselves.