The Warriors haven’t played many close games all season, and in a year where wins have seemed surprisingly easy to come by at times, on Sunday night they still managed to do something they haven’t done before — this season, anyway. Stephen Curry’s 37 points led the Warriors back from 26 down in the second quarter, as the Warriors escaped with a 106-101 road victory over the Celtics.
On a night when Festus Ezeli wasn’t available due to a one-game suspension, Andrew Bogut played without much spirit or athletic punch, Mo Speights didn’t see the court and David Lee gave his team eight uninspiring minutes, the Warriors came back thanks to six perimeter players: Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala.
“Boston forces you go to small. We like playing small. Draymond allows us to do that, Andre, Harrison. So the second half, we just decided, once Zeller went out and we took Bogut out, we were just going to stay small the rest of the way,” said Steve Kerr. “It wasn’t David’s night. It wasn’t Mo’s night. They’ll get their chance tomorrow.”
The Warriors got beaten pretty badly in the second half in Cleveland, and responded beautifully in Toronto with their best defensive effort in weeks. After blowing out the Raptors, it looked like the Warriors figured out how to finish this road trip with a flourish. Then Boston came out and scored 38 points in the first quarter, yanking those recent defensive concerns back into the spotlight.
In the first half, Isaiah Thomas scored at will and Evan Turner actually looked like a high lottery pick for once. The Warriors responded with a lot of missed shots they normally make in the first two quarters … except Curry, who made 8-of-14 in the first half and 14-of-22 for the game.
“Steph is Steph. I mean, what he does skill-wise is just shocking, just the ability to handle the ball and shoot it, get into the paint. And of course the poise, the leadership that he shows,” said Kerr.
“That was the thing that made me the most happy tonight, was under duress on the road, I thought the guys were really poised. We hardly turned it over in the second half.”
When the lineup shrinks
This was a game that might have told us a little bit about the team’s playoff rotation.
Bogut looks off these days, and he’ll probably spend tomorrow night’s game in Brooklyn in street clothes. The Warriors may want to think about giving him a couple weeks off, but they need him in late April and beyond. (Duh.)
However, a look at plus/minus shows two culprits from the bench: David Lee (-14 in eight minutes) and Leandro Barbosa (-13 in five minutes) aren’t known for defense. So, when they don’t score, they’re just about useless. Same with Speights, who hasn’t shot well of late and hasn’t put forth the same defensive effort we saw in the season’s first three months.
Right now, it appears that the playoff rotation would be:
… whoever Kerr and his staff think is either in a good rhythm or could take advantage of a certain matchup …
… or, just the seven players listed above.
Confidence over consistency
It’s clear from this road trip — and the last month overall — that the Warriors have entered a common stage for upper-echelon NBA teams: they believe they can coast at times, then flip the switch when needed. They were out of sorts in Cleveland against a motivated Cavs team led by a prideful Hall-of-Famer in LeBron James, then Golden State utterly smashed the Raptors.
This win against Boston won’t do much to quell those feelings that they’ve got that extra gear they can call upon whenever needed. It’s a good thing for confidence purposes (hell, the Phil Jackson Lakers played this way for the better part of a decade). And, quite frankly (Jim Barnett voice), it’s pretty amazing how consistent they were in terms of energy and effort from November through January. However, the Warriors will have a better chance of securing the NBA’s best record if they stop taking defensive catnaps for multiple quarters, even against under-.500 teams in the Eastern Conference.
— Green and Curry had 11 points each in the fourth quarter.
— Kerr was right, the Warriors only had three turnovers in the second half.
— This dunk was nice:
— The Warriors are now 13-4 in games decided by fewer than 10 points.
— The play of the game (other than Curry’s backcourt violation-avoiding pass to Thompson) was Iguodala’s drive and score at the end, when he seemed to kick the ball at least once, kept control, then made the lefty layup despite getting fouled by Jae Crowder (no call).
— Kerr on Iguodala: “Andre’s had a fantastic year. If you don’t watch all the time, you’d look at the numbers and say, ‘He’s having his worst year.’ He’s having a great year. His role has totally changed. The minutes are down a little bit. The starting job is no longer there. But he’s asked to do so much in terms of his defensive matchups, handling the ball when he comes in, settling down the second group. He’s a phenomenal basketball player and he gives us just that feel and that IQ that we need on the floor. He was brilliant tonight.”