Steve Kerr provided a strong message, just not from his usual spot on the bench: Play with urgency from the opening tip this time. The same unit that scored just 13 combined points in Game 1 poured in 25 points in the first half alone. That would be Mike Brown, who told the story of what happened at his pre-game press conference. Even so, our defense could even promote the tempo that we wanted to get to. There’s no Tony, no Kawhi as of right now. Stephen Curry and the West’s No. 1 seed led by 17 points after the first quarter and 28 points after halftime. The Spurs seemed much slower compared to the home-court Warriors.
Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 35 points in the first half. The Spurs were noticeably worse without Leonard, as they posted a +25 plus/minus with him and a horrendous -22 without him on the court. LaMarcus Aldridge needed to step up with Leonard out and he shrunk under the lights. Those 136 points were the most allowed by a Gregg Popovich-coached team in a playoff game.
The Warriors, on the other hand, were anything but timid. “So that was huge”, Curry said of the Warriors, who had 39 assists on their 50 field goals, and shot 56.2 percent from the field. 7 separate players scored. Draymond Green did a bit of everything in contributing 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. Everybody’s getting out of the way wondering what’s going on. He collapsed to the hardwood but still managed to grab Curry to no avail. “Now the real challenge is going on the road and trying to get some wins”.
Steven Kerr was also in the building to view the game at The Oracle.
But it was the bench led the Warriors, even with the absence of Andre Iguodala. The shift in aggressiveness produced immediate results. Aldridge put up just eight points in 27 minutes of work while shooting just 4-11 from the floor. That time they escaped with a championship.
While McCaw’s numbers jump out from the box score, he was far from the only reserve giving the Warriors quality minutes.
“The schedule comes in and helps us out”, guard Shaun Livingston said.
The second quarter was more of the same. JaVale McGee was his usual energetic and explosive self.
Maybe that’s a product of sitting through two-plus quarters of garbage time. It was reminiscent of a pro wrestling match with the way the Warriors beat down the Spurs with no regard. “Tonight’s Game 2 and that’s what needs to be concentrated on”.
The Warriors were rightfully pleased with their improved effort.
But it’s fair to wonder if Popovich’s rant on Monday, when he went in on Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia for the part he played in Leonard’s injury and generally sounded like someone who had very little hope of winning the series without his services, had any impact on the psyche of his players. The word that kept slipping into Curry’s answers was “sustain”.
Likely without Leonard for Game 3 in San Antonio, Popovich and the Spurs must find another way to win.
Despite Golden State taking an early lead in the finals past year, the Cavaliers came back from a multi-game deficit, forced a Game 7 out of the Warriors, and won the title.