OAKLAND -- The Warriors approach the possibility of postseason elimination amid heated dialogue about their offense. What's wrong with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson? Where is the torrid shooting that made them a popular storyline throughout the playoffs?
The more substantive factor for the Warriors, though, has to do with defense.
If they don't play it exceedingly well against San Antonio on Thursday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Warriors will walk out of Oracle Arena and directly into the offseason.
Defense is the element of the game most consistently discussed by Mark Jackson. On Wednesday, a day after a 109-91 loss in Game 5, the coach once again leaned on the subject.
Asked about the suddenly chilly jump shots rolling off the fingers of Steph and Klay, Jackson jumped atop an old soapbox built on the sturdy pillars of league history.
"They shot 72 percent in the first quarter, scored 37 points," he said of the Spurs. "That has nothing to do with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shooting the basketball."
As someone who spent 17 years as an NBA player and nearly a decade as a close observer, Jackson realizes defense is crucial to postseason success. Understanding his team and the NBA, the coach expressed a tedious truth: Jump shots do not win championships and rarely get a team close to one.
Jackson spent parts of six seasons in Indiana alongside Reggie Miller, one of the best jump-shooters ever. Reggie retired with one trip to the NBA Finals and zero rings.
Steve Nash is a two-time NBA MVP with a marvelous jumper. His career likely will end without a title. The smooth-shooting backcourt of John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek didn't win one in Utah, nor did many of the other great shooters of the past, such as Glen Rice, Dale Ellis and Stephen Curry's dad, Dell.
Ray Allen wasn't much of a postseason factor until he joined a Boston Celtics team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo -- the latter two wicked defenders. Larry Bird could not have won without Kevin McHale's offense on the block, Robert Parish's interior defense and Dennis Johnson locking down the perimeter.
Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson had on his side plenty of fabulous shooters, including Nash and Chris Mullin. Nelson's teams played indifferent defense and won zero rings.
Shooting is not the path to the top -- unless it's accompanied by smothering, unrelenting defense, the kind that generally has to simmer and steep for years before it becomes routine.
That's how the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons made it to the top nearly 25 years ago. They didn't have much of a low-post presence on offense, which meant most of their offense was generated by jumpers from Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson.
They would not have earned consecutive trophies without the immense defensive contributions of Bill Laimbeer, John Salley, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Dumars. The Bad Boys roughed up some opponents, shut down others.
And yet they endured years of heartbreak before realizing no matter how many jumpers fell, defense was the only way to succeed in May and June.
Shooting is glamorous. It's highly entertaining, mesmerizing. It can win games in the regular season and the postseason, in the NBA and in college, as Curry experienced in 2008, when his jumpers carried unheralded Davidson College to the Elite Eight.
And when the Warriors are at their hottest, with Curry and Thompson lighting it up from deep, one can get caught up in the madness.
But a team built around jump shots has a finite life in the postseason, unless it also has rebounding and a devotion to defense.
These Warriors are building around a young core. Curry is 25, Thompson 23 and rookie Harrison Barnes only 20. This is their introduction to the NBA postseason. They are learning what it will take to compete and continue competing.
Right now, their offense is in fact dictated by the accuracy of their jump shots. When they fall, the Warriors look pretty good. When they don't, the scoreboard sleeps.
Listening to several Warriors on Wednesday, it was clear Jackson's message was heard. Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry all cited defensive shortcomings as the primary factor in losing Game 5.
Their heads are in the right place. They seem to understand jump shots can be pleasing to the eye, but that defense determines how far a team goes during the postseason grind.
Endurance, after all, requires full grasp of the basics as taught by lessons of the past.