If one series can serve as a referendum on Jackson after three years on the job, is it that outrageous to have one game serve as a convincing argument in his favor? This sure seemed like a validation of everything he preaches, and a corroboration of his tactics.
The Warriors made things difficult on Chris Paul by sticking Thompson on him and then sending big men his way coming off screens -- never more effectively than when Draymond Green jumped out and caused Paul to lose the ball out of bounds in the final 20 seconds.
"We wanted to come up on the pick-and-rolls so he couldn't really come off and shoot," Speights said.
Normally that's an invitation for him to throw lobs to Griffin, but the Warriors took care of that as well by shifting the weak side of their defense.
"We wanted to make sure everybody was pulled over so Blake didn't get that dunk," Speights said.
The strategy was particularly effective in the first half, when Paul missed six of 10 shots. That doesn't include the times he was caught in the air, without a clean look at the hoop and without a good option to pass to, such an uncharacteristic predicament for the league's best point guard.
Not everything is strategy, of course. As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, "I don't just go into a game prepared for Blake to be in foul trouble." But Griffin played only four minutes in the first half, which was just enough time to pick up three fouls. Paul had four fouls by the end of the third quarter.
Jackson had to do his own juggling, with Lee picking up three early fouls and Iguodala eventually fouling out. He sat Iguodala after his fifth foul and J.J. Redick got loose to hit four jumpers in a little more than three minutes. The Warriors had a counter, though, making a point of going at Redick at the other end to the extent Rivers had to sit him in favor of a cold-shooting Jamal Crawford for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We did a good job on finding matchups and really trying to take advantage of that," O'Neal said.
The X's and O's worked in Jackson's favor. So did the other essential component of coaching in the NBA: connecting with players. O'Neal and Iguodala, two veterans with 133 games of playoff experience between them, noted how the younger players maintained their composure even during the game's most trying times.
"To me, that's the sign of growth," O'Neal said.
These are the abstract things that Jackson speaks of so often that become very tangible during the playoffs. It's why this team has won at least one road game in three playoff series dating back to last year. It's why even though Jackson freely admits he would have picked the Clippers if he had his old job next to Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy at the ABC broadcast table, the guy coaching on the Warriors bench believes his team will win the series.