As far as preparatory tests go, this series might be just what the Warriors needed. After running and gunning their way to a huge lead before squandering most of it in the fourth quarter of Game 1, Golden State was forced to fight their way through a much closer, grittier contest in Game 2. Monday night’s 97-87 win gave the Warriors a 2-0 series lead over New Orleans, and it showed they can win the kind of game the doubters think they aren’t built to survive.
Golden State’s bench was much better in Game 2, Leandro Barbosa and Mo Speights in particular. Klay Thompson led the way offensively with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, pretty remarkable considering he appeared to be on his way to another uneven performance after a 1-for-4 showing in the first quarter.
But this was another Draymond Green performance to savor. Some of the East Coasters don’t believe the Warriors can win ugly, but these traditional playoff-style games — where both teams are held below 100 and the teams do more scrapping than splashing — are made for Green.
“He’s a dog. He’s not going to stop. He’s full of energy. He has deflections, he’s taking charges, he’s getting rebounds,” said Andrew Bogut, who was fantastic on the defensive end as well. “He’s done that for us all season, he’s one of our best defenders.”
For the second straight game Green had 42 minutes, and his numbers were almost identical to what he put up in Game 1. On Monday he finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds (Bogut led the team with 14), five assists, three steals and a block.
Just like how Green’s stat lines only tell part of the story (here’s another part: Davis finished with 26 points on 9-of-22 shooting after it appeared early on that he was on his way to a 40-point night), one can’t compare the final scores of Game 1 and Game 2 and expect to be anything but fooled. The Warriors may have won by a few more points on Monday than they did on Saturday, but that doesn’t begin to describe how tense the action was in Game 2 until the final minute.
“It was an interesting game for us,” said Steve Kerr. “The second and fourth quarters were great. The first and third were pretty rough.”
Yes, even a rowdy home crowd couldn’t stop the Pelicans from starting out hot. Eric Gordon torched the Warriors with 11 first quarter points, going 3-for-3 on threes, while Davis picked up where he left off in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Golden State heaved more airballs and shots that hit glass and nothing else in the first quarter of Game 2 than any quarter all season.
As Kerr noted, that all changed in the second quarter. The Warriors’ offense was brilliant, as they made 76.5% of their shots from the field and turned a 28-17 deficit into a 55-52 lead at halftime on this three from Stephen Curry.
The Warriors raced out to a nine-point lead to start the third quarter, but then they went almost three and a half minutes without scoring and the Pelicans came back to tie it at 71-71 heading into the fourth. So how did the Warriors win this game?
— Their defense was phenomenal in the second half, as they held New Orleans to 35 points on 25.7% shooting. This was mostly thanks to Green (who was never 100% after rolling his ankle in the first half) working so hard to contain Davis, and Bogut ferociously defending the paint. Other than Davis, the Warriors clearly focused on stopping Quincy Pondexter, who went from a 20-point performance in Game 1 to 1-of-8 shooting and just three points in Game 2.
— Thompson had one of those Klay Thompson quarters in the fourth, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. And that included only one three — Thompson did a great job of moving without the ball and elevating once he got it, scoring on a dunk and a variety of midrange shots.
— The reserves — Shaun Livingston in the fourth quarter, Barbosa and Speights throughout — kept the Warriors in the game when everything else offensively seemed to be stalling.
There are some lingering doubts caused by each game.
- Davis’ fourth quarter
- Lack of production from reserves besides Andre Iguodala
- Poor free throw shooting
- Sloppy play in the first and third quarters
- Poor free throw shooting
- Another close game after a regular season full of blowouts
It’s probably good for the Warriors that they’re playing a fairly hot Pelicans team that’s so much deeper than the Oklahoma City Westbrook, a “team” that stopped playing defense in April. The Pelicans are the No. 8 seed for a reason, but the matchup problems caused by Davis and their three-point threats throughout the roster are providing a test for the Warriors, one which points to the probability that these upcoming games in New Orleans won’t be easy.
— The two plays where Oracle got loudest (unfortunately for Monty Williams, it was considerably louder on Monday than on Saturday) were Bogut dunks: the fast break one-handed slam on a phenomenal thread-the-needle pass on the run from Iguodala, and the Warriors’ last bucket — a two-handed jam off a tough pass in the paint from Curry.
— Thompson looks like he’s enjoying this matchup with Tyreke Evans, who played through a bone bruise in his knee. Evans filled up the stat sheet (16 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists), but he made 4-of-13 shots and didn’t help corral Thompson on the other end.
— Curry didn’t score in the last 17 minutes of this game and went 0-for-5 on threes in the second half. That’s a good sign for the Warriors that they don’t need him to dominate to win in the playoffs, which had to give the Pelicans fits because they did a great job on the likely MVP.
— Quote of the night from Kerr: “I ask Draymond if he’s tired. If he says no, I leave him in. If he says yes, I leave him in. It’s a very scientific approach.”
— Runner up: “We always sort of walk the line, this team, between explosive and careless.”
— I asked Green how often he answers Kerr’s question about being tired in the affirmative. I might as well post Green’s entire answer, because it was great.
I don’t say (I’m tired) much. I think I played the whole third quarter and then like the first four or five minutes of that fourth quarter, I was a little winded and he saw it. I think I fouled Anthony Davis two straight possessions. He got me out of there and he got me a break.
I hate coming out of the game anyway. He took me out with three minutes to go in the first quarter and I was over there, hot.
He came to me and said, “Hey, what you pissed off about?”
I said, “You took me out of the game and Anthony Davis was still in the game. Why are you taking me out?”
He said, “Listen man, there’s a method to our madness. Just relax.”
I said, “Alright, I got you.”
He walked away, I was still pissed off. I trust Coach. And he trusts me, so we have a great relationship and like I said he trusts me to stay in in those situations. I have to fight through the fatigue. That’s something you have to try to do as a basketball player, especially in playoff time.
— So what exactly is Kerr’s “method” when it comes to this particular madness? Kerr probably wanted Green to work more with the second unit, and his plan seemed to work.
“I didn’t give the bench enough of a chance in Game 1,” said Kerr. “I liked the box score. I like the fact that those guys came out and gave us that lift to start the second quarter.”
More Draymond talk from Kerr: “Just what I’ve always dreamed of. It’s hard to put into words what Draymond means to this team. I think you guys who have been watching this club all year know he does everything. He’s a jack of all trades. On top of that, he’s one of our leaders and the guy who talks the most trash to the other team, to the refs, to his teammates, to me. He’s kind of our life line. It’s great.”