OAKLAND: Rick Barry, who played in the last two Game 7s staged in Oakland four decades ago, was on hand Monday night (Tuesday in Manila) at Oracle Arena for the Warriors’ Western Conference finals Game 7 against Oklahoma City.
Barry is hoping he’s a good-luck charm. He has been to Oakland several times over the last two seasons to watch the Warriors in person and he has never seen them lose. It was the same kind of successful run he had in the 1970s with the Raiders.
“For years and years and years, I never saw the Raiders lose in person,” he said. “Al Davis used to try to get me to go on road trips. So I’m hoping my record stays intact with these guys.”
Barry said the Warriors don’t need the luck if they play well.
“If the Warriors play their brand of basketball 36 minutes out of 48, they’re very rarely ever going to be beaten by anybody. They’re a better team than anybody when they have everything going offense/defense. They haven’t really done that in this series.”
Barry’s memories of Games 7 on the Coliseum grounds are mixed. In 1975, Barry had a great Game 6 on the road in Chicago to force a Game 7 against the Bulls. But he had a horrible first half and coach Al Attles benched him for much of the second half.
“It was all about the team because in Game 7,” he said, “I sucked until the last six minutes of the game. I was awful. I think that was probably one of Al’s best coaching decisions in his career was taking me out of the game in the third quarter. How many coaches would take out their leading scorer?
“I was on the bench for a long time. The whole third quarter and a good part of the fourth quarter because our guys played such good defense and got us back in the game. When I came in, I had the same attitude Klay [Thompson] had — I realized I’m already the goat if we don’t win, so I took a jump shot right in front of our bench and I think I made like four out of six. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
The Warriors won that Game 7 and then beat the Washington Bullets four straight in the NBA Finals. The following year, they lost Game 7 in Oakland against Phoenix. Barry said the series might have been lost in Game 6 on the road.
“In Game 6, we had a chance to close out,” he said. “In fact, [because of that game]they changed the rule where you can’t foul off the ball in the last two minutes. They brought the ball to me, but they fouled Derrick Dickey out of bounds intentionally and had him go to the line. He unfortunately missed a free throw and that helped them get a chance to come back to beat us. If I go to the line and make two free throws, we win and we go to play Boston.”
Barry admits he has become an incredibly passionate fan of this team, and particularly Stephen Curry.
“He’s as much fun to watch as any player I’ve seen in my life,” Barry said. “I love watching him. I’ve seen a lot of great players play and do stuff, but he’s as much fun as anybody I’ve ever seen play the game because you never know what he’s going to do.”
He said Thompson’s Game 6 at Oklahoma City was far more impressive than what he did in Chicago in 1975, when he scored 36 points to lead the Warriors to a must-win triumph.
“Oh, Klay was off the charts,” Barry said. “Klay is in another league. Everybody talks about Steph having a quick shot. I think Klay’s shot is quicker. Klay never brings the ball down. Sometimes he just catches it and it’s gone.
“I talked to him after Game 5 and told him, ‘Hey, don’t worry, your shot is going to start dropping.’ I didn’t realize it would drop the way it did, but he can do that. When he’s got it going, Geez Louise.”
Barry is often asked to compare guards of different eras but said the Warriors’ tandem tops them all.
“There’s never been any two players who can shoot the ball from distance like those two guys,” he said. “[Jerry] West and [Gail] Goodrich were two great shooters, but that was mid-range. That’s not what these guys are doing.”