A True Test for Strength in Numbers
All season long, the Warriors have faced questions about their depth. But in the playoffs, the squad has managed to get key plays in key moments from their reserves; with seemingly each player taking turns in impacting games off the bench. Now, with the NBA Finals tied at 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Wednesday at Oracle Arena, the Dubs will need to once again lean on their ‘Strength in Numbers’ mentality, and how the team responds can determine whether or not the season ends with a third straight championship.
In Sunday’s Game 2 victory, it was Quinn Cook’s time to step up, and he did so in the fourth quarter. After Danny Green brought Toronto within four on a deep transition 3-pointer, the second straight Raptors possession resulting in a trey, Cook responded with pair of 3-pointers from nearly the same spot on the right wing. Given that Toronto followed that sequence with another 3-pointer, Cook’s shots proved to be huge for the Dubs in maintaining their advantage.
In addition to Cook’s big shots, Andrew Bogut also contributed to the Game 2 win. After not playing in the team’s Game 1 defeat last Thursday, the Aussie big man was thrust into the rotation in the wake of Kevon Looney’s injury. Bogut subbed into the game at the 4:50 mark in the third quarter and 24 seconds later entered the scoring column by finishing a Stephen Curry lob to the rim. Bogut would convert on two more lobs and play some staunch defense in the process, helping the Dubs protect their Game 2 advantage.
When Klay Thompson exited Game 2 with a strained left hamstring, that provided an opportunity for Warriors guard Shaun Livingston to be on the floor with the Dubs’ game-ending lineup, and all he did was potentially save the game by catching a soft pass from Curry that was nearly intercepted by Toronto’s all-world defender Kawhi Leonard. Livingston snatched the pass and then casually made a no-look pass to Andre Iguodala, who smoothly knocked down the game-clinching 3-pointer for the Dubs with 5.9 seconds left.
“We all joke amongst us of bad receivers and good receivers. I always call Kevin (Durant) a bad receiver. I always call Shaun a bad receiver,” Draymond Green said during his postgame press conference on Sunday. "He turned into a Megatron (Calvin Johnson) tonight for that pass. It was big for us.”
For any team fortunate enough to play into June, injuries and ailments are part of the game, and the Warriors are certainly no exception. Looney is out for the remainder of The Finals with a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture and Thompson is questionable with his hamstring strain. DeMarcus Cousins is playing his way back into shape after missing more than a month with a torn quad muscle and the team is hopeful that Kevin Durant returns after straining his right calf in the second round vs. Houston.
Regardless of who’s healthy enough to suit up and how many minutes they can play, the team will have to rely on their depth moving forward. The Warriors have gone deeper into their bench than the Raptors over these first two games, and how effective the Dubs’ reserves are going forward will certainly have an impact on the remaining games in the series.
“When you get to this stage, our DNA shows up,” Curry said. “It’s not just something you just throw out there to have nice shirts and give out to the crowd at Oracle and have all this marketing stuff. It’s literally how we approach every day from training camp to June. How we support each other, how guys stay ready throughout the year … it shows itself over the course of a season.”
Can Cook, who is 4-for-6 on 3-pointers in these last two games, continue to knock down shots? Will Bogut continue to have a presence in the paint when called upon? Can Livingston continually be counted on to make winning plays? Will another reserve step up in a timely situation? These types of contributions have been part of the Dubs’ identity for five seasons, so why should anything change now?
Other Warriors-centric thoughts, notes and observations from the first two games of the NBA Finals …
- Draymond Green fell one assist shy of his fourth straight triple-double in Game 2. He has 11 double-doubles this postseason, including in six straight games and 10 of his last 11 games. There’s nothing quite like playoff Draymond, and it’s arguable that his most important contributions – his on-the-ball and help defense aren’t measured on the stat sheet.
- DeMarcus Cousins exceeded expectations with his Game 2 performance, tallying 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes. After the game, Coach Kerr expressed that he was hoping to get 20 minutes from his starting center, who was playing in just his second game since being injured in the opening minutes of the second game of the Dubs’ first round playoff series with the Clippers. With Looney out indefinitely, Cousins and Bogut figure to get the bulk of the minutes for Warriors center, and the Dubs can also go without a traditional center in certain matchups.
- Iguodala’s clutch 3-pointer added to a long list of playoff highlights for the veteran Warriors swingman. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP seems to have signature moments in every Finals series he has played in, and this one has to rank toward the top.
- The Warriors never went on an extended run in Game 1, but their 20-0 spurt bridging the second and third quarters of Game 2 was truly historic, marking the first time in NBA Finals history that a team has reeled off 20 straight points. That run, which grew to 27-3, helped the Dubs come back from a double-digit deficit for the fifth time this postseason.
- Furthermore, all 22 Warriors made field goals in the second half of Game 2 were assisted. That’s only the second time in Finals history that a team has had assists on all their made shots in a half (Spurs 2005).
- The Warriors’ bench is 22-for-45 (48.9 percent) from the floor and 8-for-19 (42.1 percent) on 3-pointers through the first two games of the NBA Finals. It’s a small sample size, but the scoring and shooting percentages are all on par, or better than, the Dubs’ regular season bench numbers, and that’s notable considering rotations generally shorten up in postseason games.
- Toronto had a 23-0 advantage in second chance points in Game 2, including 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that capped possessions in which the Raptors had two and four offensive rebounds. Safe to say the Dubs will look to do a better job on the defensive glass.
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