Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) dribbles past Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin (32) in the first quarter in Game 6 of their
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) dribbles past Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin (32) in the first quarter in Game 6 of their Western Conference NBA Playoff game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- Their shots weren't falling. They had no big men. The season was on the line. The fouls were mounting. And the lack of air conditioning had Oracle Arena feeling like a summer rec league.

The Warriors had a few things working in their favor in Game 6, the only things keeping this undermanned squad in this series: heart, hustle, togetherness.

"That's who we are," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "And now, against the No. 3 seed, with two of the top-10 players in the world, a future Hall of Fame coach, and we're going to Game 7. In spite of all the sideline music. And I like my chances because I got a group of guys who are willing to do whatever it takes."

Thursday's 100-99 victory to force a Game 7 was just about the perfect snapshot of what Jackson brings to the table as a coach.

It was ugly, far from the fun and frenetic aesthetic that's been a staple of this franchise. It was disjointed at times and wide-open to second-guessing.

But in the end, the results exceeded the circumstance. They overcame their ills with their resolve. With logic and reality stacked against them, they relied on chemistry and execution.

The Warriors opted for small ball, but they were forced into it when watching their third center go down.

Jermaine O'Neal, the 18-year veteran who's been pivotal for the hobbled Warriors front line, was knocked out of the game early in the second quarter by the Clippers' Glen Davis. X-rays on his sprained right knee, hyperextended when Davis crashed into his legs, were negative but he was ruled out for the second half.

Starting center and defensive stalwart, Andrew Bogut, is forced to watch the games from the training room, laying on his back. With his fractured rib dangerously close to his lung, he can't risk too much activity. An accidental elbow to his side on the crowded bench risks cracking the rib and puncturing his lung. Plus Bogut said just breathing is laborious.

Festus Ezeli, who started most of last season, is back on the court. But he hasn't recovered enough from the knee surgery he had a year ago to suit up.

Still, with only forwards as their big men, the Warriors defended at an elite level. The Clippers shot 36.8 percent. Draymond Green gave Blake Griffin fits, as the Clippers All-Star needed 24 shots to get 17 points before fouling out.

"I thought both teams played poorly," Griffin said. "I think they just grinded it out more than us."

David Lee had been getting destroyed by the Clippers big men most of this series. Thursday, he fought back. His energy, his wrestling with DeAndre Jordan, helped the Warriors win the rebounding battles and kept Jordan from really hurting Golden State as he's done in the Clippers' three wins.

Andre Iguodala took turns on J.J. Redick, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford, and they were a combined 12 of 36 from the field.

"We knew coming into this game that we had to battle," Green said after totaling 14 points, 14 rebounds, five steals and four assists.

But yes, the Warriors offense struggled, shooting 39.3 percent as a team and missing 14 free throws.

Stephen Curry, who scored 14 points in the first quarter, managed just 10 the rest of the way. His looks became scarce as the Warriors settled on him being a facilitator. He finished with 24 points and nine assists, but he was 9 of 24 from the field.

Especially late, the offense was sketchy. And Jackson played a big part of that late, slowing down the pace with his love of isolation basketball. The Warriors scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, but stalled just enough offensively to keep hope alive for the Clippers.

The last two elimination games in Oracle have been hairy. The Warriors nearly choked against Denver last year, and had nothing left in the tank against the Spurs.

Thursday, the Warriors flirted dangerously with ending their season.

But with co-owner Joe Lacob, who will decide Jackson's fate, watching closely from his courtside seat, the best of what the Warriors coach brings was on display. All of the clichés he's been spouting came true.

The Warriors put together a performance defined by their will more than their talent, by their chemistry more than their production. A tangible display of the kind of intangibles they'd be walking away from should they depart from Jackson.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.