The Warriors back-up point guard was being denounced, locally and nationally, for his performance thus far in this second round series against the Spurs. His crunch time numbers were still good, but some of his late turnovers proved to be costly and one particular jump pass in Game 3 looked like it sealed the Warrior’s fate in that game. Jarrett Jack is the man on trial here, and he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Slightly undersized at point guard, he is almost always forced to defend a bigger guard in order to hide Curry or Barnes on defense. He’s tough nosed and doesn’t mind mixing it up with the big guys in the paint, but is usually looking for his own shot over distributing, especially if his mid range shot is dropping. This often gets criticized, especially when he plays hero ball, 1 on 1, as the shot clock expires. That being said, the man won the Warriors Game 4.
Briefly looking at the box score from Sunday’s Game 3 matchup between the Spurs and the Warrior’s, one would assume the offense ran through Harrison Barnes. The Warriors wanted to pound the mismatch in the post anytime Tony Parker or Gary Neal got switched onto Barnes, and this lead to his high volume of shots. Barnes’ career high before Game 4 was only 17 attempts, so to rely so heavily on a rookie seemed to be a little crazy. While he didn’t shoot a great percentage, it was smart of Warrior’s coach Mark Jackson to abuse this mismatch because Barnes would often beat his defender off the dribble, causing mayhem in the paint, leading to a few easy putbacks.
However, a rookie can only do so much. Jack was most often the one forcing the pace on the fast breaks, getting to the cup when the Warrior’s needed a big basket. Barnes went on a little solo-run of his own and ended the Warrior’s embarassing drought mid-way through the first quarter, which was much needed, but late in the game, Jack was the guy.
Jack had it all going in the first half. He was putting on a clinic. Dropping floaters in the lane. Hitting tough 3 pointers. Creating for himself and passing out when the help side rotated. Any time Parker was matched up against him, Jack knew he could score, it was just a matter of how. Jack even got two quick free throws in before the half ended to keep the game somewhat tight. He was the only player with any sort of rhythm on offense and the Warriors leaned on him hard. He delivered.
Leading the Warriors from down 10 in the second half, Jack was the one who carried the load for extended periods and ended up tieing the game at 82 before the Spurs regained the lead.
Although many will look at his shot at the end of regulation and say he waited too long to start the play and heaved up a prayer, Jack earned the right to take any shot he wanted there because of the HUGE play when he came up with the loose ball on the previous possession. Manu Ginobili put up a three pointer, and Bogut, Duncan, Leonard, and Barnes were all trading blows, trying to secure the ball, when Jack came from out of nowhere and stole the loose ball away from Kawhi Leonard. Is there any other Warrior you would rather have diving for a loose ball with 16 secs left in the game? Jack is kind of an undercover ‘Back Alley’ type guy (Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose famously give this moniker to NBA guys you don’t want to see late night in a back alley), and he is one of the few guys that really brings a semblance of grit and toughness to this Warriors squad.
The Spurs never stood a chance in any overtime game at Oracle. The crowd is too hard to deal with, and the Warriors simply feed off it. Jack came out firing and was responsible for the first six point of the extra period. (Two buckets and an assist) He iced the game within the first few possessions, stepping on the throats of the Spurs. Jack finished with 12 of the Warriors final 24 points, closing the game on a 5 of 6 tear. This is the kind of veteran leadership the Warriors have been desperate for. Curry was hobbled, Thompson was nowhere to be found (5-13 FG), and Bogut was getting it done on the defensive end, but only attempted five shots.
Jarrett Jack went from the most criticized man in the Bay Area, to potentially blowing a game winning shot at the buzzer, to the veteran hero the Warrior’s were in need of. Jack silenced his harshest critics. He kept his nose to the grind and didn’t change the way he plays to satisfy anyone off the court. The only person Jack wanted approval from was Mark Jackson, and he got it as evidenced by the fact that he played more minutes than two of the Warriors starters. Jack willed the Warrior’s back into the heart of this series and now needs to continue this hot play down in Texas.
Jack kept on track, put the team on his back, and that’s how he got his groove back.