With no Kevin Durant, Warriors' Game 2 win highlights some of Bob Myers' best work
Golden State's "strength in numbers" motto was apt on Wednesday
The Golden State Warriors still use "strength in numbers" as a rallying cry, and if their marketing department wants to produce some kind of promotional video pertaining to the slogan, Wednesday's 110-81 win against the Portland Trail Blazers would provide plenty of material. In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Warriors were without Kevin Durant because of a strained calf, Shaun Livingston because of a finger injury and Matt Barnes because of an ankle issue that has kept him sidelined for a couple of weeks. Rookie swingman Patrick McCaw, who played all of 23 seconds in the series opener, stepped into the starting lineup.
With Durant out, opponents might fear that Stephen Curry would simply use more possessions to run pick-and-rolls and launch pull-up 3-pointers. This did not turn out to be a problem for Portland, as Curry had a relative off-night, finishing with a team-high 19 points on 6-for-18 shooting, including 4 for 12 from 3-point range. Curry was even cold from the line -- when he was fouled on a 3-pointer, he only made one of the three ensuing free throws.
Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson wasn't too hot either, scoring 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting. Draymond Green played his typical brand of all-world defense, but scored just six points on 1-for-5 shooting to go along with his 12 rebounds, 10 assists, three blocks and a steal. If there was a single shining star in this 29-point rout, it was backup center JaVale McGee.
McGee, who per ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss., played the best 13 minutes of his professional life. He threw down an alley-oop dunk from Curry on his first possession, and completed two more alley-oops in the next three minutes. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds, four blocks and a steal, shooting a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and making his only free throw. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised his energy for the millionth time this season, and McGee credited Golden State assistant Ron Adams when asked about his improved defensive awareness,
McCaw, who sometimes struggled with knowing when to assert himself in the regular season, fit into the starting lineup seamlessly. Late in the second quarter, when the Blazers had cut their deficit to a single point, he confidently launched a 27-foot 3-pointer and made it. Less than a minute later, he attacked the basket and made a driving layup. He wound up with nine points and five rebounds in his team-high 34 minutes.
"The main thing I liked was the fact that he was unafraid," Kerr said. "He's a rookie and he barely played in Game 1 and when K.D. comes back he's probably not going to play a whole lot. But the fact that he stayed prepared, stayed ready and then really defended well -- I thought his defense was excellent. We asked him to guard [Damian] Lillard, [C.J.] McCollum a little bit and he did a really nice job."
It wasn't just McGee and McCaw. Big man David West had eight points, making Portland pay for going small, and he also had one perfect pass to create a layup for guard Ian Clark. Clark had 13 points off the bench, too. Starting center Zaza Pachulia had 10 points and four boards in 17 minutes, with his usual solid screens and team defense keeping everybody connected. This is all before even mentioning the Warriors' best role player and leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala, who had a Green-like line of six points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a steal in 27 minutes.
"I thought Andre was tremendous pushing the ball," Kerr said. "David West made some great passes to Ian. [McGee] made a huge impact. We feel like we have a very deep team, and we needed that tonight. We needed every guy. And they came through."
While Golden State got contributions from reserve after reserve, Portland struggled to find lineups that could function together. The Blazers have been without the services of center Jusuf Nurkic for three weeks, and his absence has affected them profoundly on both ends. It's not fair to draw a direct contrast because the Warriors started the back-to-back Most Valuable Player, the likely Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the best two-way shooting guard in the league, but it was striking to see Portland trot out a gimmicky lineup of Lillard, McCollum, Pat Connaughton, Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu in the first quarter.
If Bob Myers winds up winning Executive of the Year this season, it won't just be because he signed Durant in one of the best free agent coups in the history of professional sports. It will be mainly because of that, but also because, with little financial flexibility, his front office constructed a team that has contributors up and down the roster. Pachulia and West were veterans who were willing to take a discount. Clark, re-signed on a one-year deal last July, was initially a summer league star without an NBA contract. McCaw, taken No. 38 in the 2016 draft, was a total steal. Absolutely any team in the league could have had McGee.
The fact all of these guys have made the most of their opportunity is a testament to Warriors management, the coaching staff and the players themselves. In the regular season, they all got comfortable playing next to superstars on this superteam. They won't always all be needed, but when they are, it appears they'll be ready.
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