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Takeaways After Two Games of the Conference Finals
by Brian Witt
Recounting some of the lessons learned from the first two games of the Western Conference Finals.
The Warriors remain undefeated in the playoffs, and are now the fifth team in NBA history to win 10-straight games to begin a postseason. Half of those victories have been of the wire-to-wire variety, including Golden State’s 136-100 runaway win over the Spurs in Game 2 on Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from the series thus far...
Steph’s Still Streaking
Stephen Curry may not have had as prolific of a regular season as his two prior MVP campaigns, but it’s quite possible he’s never played better in the postseason than he has this year. Golden State has yet to lose a game and has become the ninth team in NBA history to post a double-digit postseason winning streak, and Curry’s stellar play has been a big reason why. In Game 2, he led all scorers with 29 points in just over 30 minutes of game action, pouring in six of his nine three-point attempts in the contest. That came on the heels of his Game 1 performance, in which he posted 40 points and seven three-pointers in just under 40 minutes of play. The first two games of the Western Conference Finals have been the continuation of a fantastic start to the playoffs for Curry, as he’s now averaging 28.6 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting from the field, 43.7 percent from three-point range and 90.0 percent from the free throw line. Those numbers are all a significant step up from his regular season averages, while only playing an average of 1.1 more minutes per game in the playoffs.
It doesn’t come as a shock when Stephen Curry has a dominating performance in a playoff game. A second-round rookie making his first extended appearance in three weeks? That’s another story.
The rookie being referred to here is obviously Patrick McCaw, who accounted for 18 points in 27 minutes in Game 2 after playing fewer than 10 total combined minutes since the end of the first round of the playoffs. In doing so, McCaw became the first Warriors rookie with at least 18 points off the bench in a playoff game since Robert Parish in 1977, and the first rookie in the NBA with 18-or-more points off the bench in a playoff game since James Harden in 2010. That’s some elite company to be a part of, and while no one knows how the rest of McCaw’s career will proceed, it’s safe to say it’s gotten off to a pretty good start. It’s a challenge for a player to perform at their best when they don’t know when their minutes are going to come, and time and again McCaw has proven ready when called upon.
McCaw led all bench scorers in Game 2, and Golden State’s advantage in bench scoring had plenty to do with their ability to run away with the victory. The Warriors’ bench combined for 63 points in the win, their highest total in any game this season (regular season or playoffs). It was a stark contrast from Game 1, in which San Antonio’s bench outscored that of Golden State’s by a margin of 39-13, and that was in a game that came down to the final minute.
Sharing is Caring
Speaking of a supporting cast, the Warriors dominated Game 2 by way of a balanced attack. 10 different players scored at least six points in the contest, while eight managed to tally at least three assists. In fact, Golden State assisted on each of their first 10 field goals to start the game to open up a double-digit lead, and would go on to total 39 assists in the victory, the most by any team in a game this postseason. The Warriors’ 136 points in Game 2 were their most in a playoff game since a 138-point outing in 1977, and the Dubs’ proficiency in sharing the ball had plenty to do with it. After combining for just eight assists in the first half of Game 1, the Warriors compiled 14 assists during their epic second half comeback. Extra passes turn good shots into great ones, and when Golden State has had success in this series, that’s precisely what they’ve been doing.
While the Warriors now hold a 2-0 lead in the series, not everything has gone their way. The Spurs outrebounded Golden State 49-40 in Game 2, and San Antonio’s 22 offensive rebounds were the most the Warriors have given up in any game this season. The Spurs had a significant rebounding advantage in the first two quarters of Game 1 before Golden State turned things around in the second half, and San Antonio’s ability to control the boards is certainly an area in which the Dubs can improve moving forward. The Warriors are doing a great job forcing missed shots, limiting the Spurs to 41.8 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range, but they can do a better job of cleaning up those misses and preventing San Antonio from getting multiple scoring opportunities within a single trip down the floor.
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