LOS ANGELES -- Maybe instead of wondering why the Golden State Warriors weren't better than a No. 6 seed this season, we should have wondered why they weren't worse.
Yes, we took into consideration that David Lee, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala each missed at least 15 games with injuries. We acknowledged they had lost key reserves and positive locker-room presences Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. But we didn't consider how many new players they had to work into the mix: Iguodala, Jermaine O'Neal and Marreese Speights at the beginning, then Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake before the trade deadline. And we had no knowledge just how difficult that integration was, at least not to the extent Iguodala alluded to Saturday.
"Everyone's fighting for minutes," Iguodala said. "The chemistry didn't look so bad on the court, but you could tell there was a lot of tension at times throughout the year. You were like, 'When is it going to end?'
"I've seen that on championship teams. Miami, their first year together, they had some serious tension. It never got that bad [here], but you kind of wonder, 'When are you going to come together? When are you going to grow up and understand that it's not about me, or this guy, it's about us as a group?'
"Tonight, we kind of took a step in the right direction. Things don't go our way -- or when things are going our way -- stick together, play together, play the right way."
Saturday's victory had to feel as satisfying as any win for any team this season. The Warriors came into Staples Center for the playoff opener and won a taut, foul-plagued game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
They won it 109-105 even though their usual savior, Stephen Curry, shot 6-for-16, including 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter. They won it even though Iguodala fouled out. And of course they won it even though Bogut is out with a broken rib.
"Coach Jackson's harping on it every day: It's not about you, it's not about me, it's about us, coming together," Iguodala.
That would be coach Mark Jackson. And contrary to the message he'd sent his players, it felt like this victory was very much about him. Jackson is the key Warriors figure with the least security, thus the guy with the most on the line. Curry, Lee and Iguodala all have contracts that go beyond next season. Klay Thompson will surely get extended when his rookie contract is up. Jackson has one year left, with no talk of an extension, and plenty of whispers around the league that his job is dependent on the Warriors' performance in these playoffs.
It's the reason there's so much to be read into the look of disbelief and disappointment in this GIF of Warriors owner Joe Lacob's eyes when he glanced at Jackson following a Golden State turnover in the first quarter. (By the way, for such a dramatic playoff game, the best GIFs involved people sitting at the scorer's table: Lacob, and the fan who got water tossed on him by Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter.