OAKLAND – JaVale McGee took the pass from Andre Iguodala on the left side, started toward the middle of the lane, then suddenly spun toward the baseline to shake defender Al-Farouq Aminu and dropped in a layup.
Damian Lillard headed toward the rim, plotting a course to generate hope -- any hope -- as the Trail Blazers' offense tried to slog through the hip-deep marsh. Then Patrick McCaw swooped in for the block, denying that Portland scoring chance.
Iguodala – 33-year-old Iguodala – got the ball between the top of the 3-point arc and halfcourt, sprinted away from younger, smaller Shabazz Napier, blew past whatever that attempt at defense in the lane was from Aminu, went right by Noah Vonleh and elevated and dunked hard with his right hand.
These are the nights that should concern the rest of the league as much as the images of Kevin Durant going electric, a "Splash Brother" leaving everyone wet or Draymond Green controlling the court and his emotions. Days like these Wednesdays inside Oracle Arena of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson not playing especially well, Durant not playing at all ... and Golden State still strolling to a 110-81 victory that gave it a 2-0 first-round series edge.
In all, it was a pretty good statement. Even when the two-time defending Western Conference champions don’t have much depth -- Durant was out with a strained left calf, Shaun Livingston sat with a sprained right index finger and Matt Barnes was out with a sprained right ankle -- the Warriors still have enough depth. They got big production beyond the marquee names, and that only has to happen a few times this postseason to make a difference in Golden State’s plans for another NBA Finals run.
The obvious forces -- Curry, Durant, Green, Thompson -- will ordinarily be the wrecking ball, at least one at a time and often with a destructive impact from multiple stars the same night. This was the Warriors taking a 2-0 lead as the best-of-seven series heads to Portland on Saturday night, though, with Durant sidelined, Thompson making just six of 17 shots, Curry six of 18 and Green one of five, although he did have 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
“It means a lot,” Green said. “A lot of people do talk about the four of us. But one thing that’s constant in this organization is everybody. The strength in the numbers. You know, the depth that we rely on so heavily throughout the course of the year and through the playoffs, and it’s showing up tonight. Steph didn’t have a huge game. I didn’t have a huge game. Klay didn't have a huge game. Yet we were able to put the game together that we did tonight. It’s a testament to that depth. We won almost by 30 points without anyone having a huge game. But everybody did a little bit of something."
McCaw didn’t have flashy stats, just nine points on 3-for-8 shooting, five rebounds and one assist. But starting in place of Durant at small forward because coach Steve Kerr, as expected, wanted to keep Iguodala with the second unit, McCaw was part of the early energy that delivered a 16-point lead in the first quarter. The rookie delivered 34 minutes in his first real playoff action, after the 23 seconds in Game 1 on Sunday.
McGee tore a hole through the middle of the Portland defense, throwing down lob after lob, making the Trail Blazers look bad when everyone in the area code knew the Warriors would be throwing the ball at the rim as soon as the bouncy 7-footer checked in. The Blazers say they knew too, but it didn’t matter. McGee was 7-for-7 from the field, tying the franchise playoff record for most baskets without a miss (last done by Chris Gatling in April 1992 against Seattle). McGee finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks in 13 minutes.
"When [Durant] goes out, you usually always say, ‘Oh, man, Steph’s going to have 30 and Klay’s going to have 30. But that didn’t happen tonight, but all the other guys stepped up," Green said. "Everybody contributed to this win. It’s great to be able to win games like that. Sometimes stars don’t have big games and it’s tough to win. That’s one thing that with our team we always say no matter what we can go out there and get a win, and it showed tonight.”
Iguodala is an expected contributor off the bench as a candidate for Kia Sixth Man of the Year, but still. Six points, 10 rebounds and six assists without a turnover in 27 minutes was going from the latest in strong showings to particularly important given the various plights of Durant, Curry and Thompson.
Green called it “a confidence booster for us to be able to go out there and win like that” with Durant watching from the locker room. Except it was that and a lot more. Winning so easily allowed the Warriors to find rest for key players -- Thompson and Curry went just 31 minutes, Green 30, Iguodala 27 -- on a night when the absence of Livingston, Barnes and Durant could have forced them to log 40 or more to win.
But the real big-picture value of the other Warriors stepping up? The commanding lead gives Kerr enough cushion that he could hold Durant from Game 3 even if KD is cleared to play, as opposed to 1-1 signaling more of a pressing need to get him back in the lineup. The same thinking could also carry over to Game 4 on Monday night.
“It could” be a factor, Kerr said. “We’ll have to talk to Kevin and the training staff to see how he’s doing. We’re fortunate that we’ve got the next couple games or next couple days off. If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play. But if there’s any question, then we won't play him. We’ve got to get him healthy.”
The Warriors will ultimately let the medical reports dictate Durant’s availability, in other words, not the series record. But 2-0 will be part of the conversation in a way that could provide enough flexibility to get him beyond “healthy enough to play” to “healthy, period.” That should concern the rest of the league as well.
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