Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
With Andrew Bogut taking the night off, Stephen Curry's shot off, and Brandon Rush learning that he'd be out for the season earlier in the day, the Golden State Warriors' reserves stepped up to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to victory.
Playing at Staples Center, the Warriors were only 4-for-16 from the 3-point line. Starting backcourt Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 12-for-33 from the field with Curry recording a team-high 5 turnovers. A number of fouls marred the game and kept the Warriors in foul trouble.
Yet similar to their season-opening win against the Phoenix Suns, the depth that we've talked about all offseason – both touting it and wondering just how deep the team really is – ended up helping the Warriors earn a big road win.
Key player: Carl Landry with another double-double
Jerry West has said that the Warriors were soft last season and as Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area tweeted last night losing Brandon Rush to a season-ending ACL injury doesn't make the team any tougher on the perimeter.
But Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack showed what they're made of last night, for those that weren't already aware; if there is anything positive we can take away from last night's performance with Rush and center Andrew Bogut out it's that this is probably one of the grittiest Warriors teams we've seen in some time in large part due to the additions of veterans Landry and Jack.
Landry dominated the boards last night on his way to yet another double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, with half of those boards coming in the fourth quarter as the Clippers fought their way back from down 14 points. Whenever things seemed to get close and the Warriors needed to make a play, Landry just seemed to have a knack for making something happen on his own by just outworking the Clippers frontcourt in the paint.
Key statistic: Warriors dominate the offensive boards
On the strength of Landry's outstanding performance – and David Lee's characteristically effective board work on the defensive end - the Warriors had a rebounding performance that even West probably couldn't have imagined when he commented during the offseason that the Warriors would be stronger on the boards.
Statistics via Basketball-Reference.com.
While Landry's impact on the boards showed up statistically, rookie center Festus Ezeli's role in taking up space shouldn't be underestimated - the combination of Ezeli and Landry held the Clippers without an offensive rebound in 13 minutes last night (Ezeli was so good that he played all 12 minutes in the third quarter, which matched Griffin's 12, but didn't have more to give in the fourth).
The Warriors turned their offensive rebounding advantage into a 19-13 advantage in second chance points, which is significant in a four point game that came down to the last few possessions.
Clippers statistical MVP: Chris Paul has a career-high 20 free throw attempts
Among the defining moments of this game, if not the defining performance, was the Warriors' star point guard taking a charge with under a minute left to help prevent a Chris Paul layup that would've put the outcome of the game in doubt. Kevin Arnovitz broke down those critical moments well in his recap last night.
Paul wasn't surprised by the switch, and made it abundantly clear after the game that the coverage in that situation is immaterial to him -- switch, trap, hedge, assault. In Paul's world, he always has the advantage, particularly the Warrior's duo.
"You think I care which one of them guards me?" Paul said. "Come on, now. Stephen Curry? All-defense, huh? Psshhhh ... Come on, now."
While Paul and Lee were performing their dance, Curry had to contend with Griffin on the block, but Curry figured that the ball this was Paul's game to win or lose.
Even if Curry didn't earn himself any defensive respect around the league with that play, it was a heads-up play that ultimately saved the game – when you talk about mental toughness under pressure, it's hard to come up with a better example in a game full of pretty good ones.
But that felt like just about the only whistle that went the Warriors' way last night.
Paul had 20 of the Clippers 52 free throw attempts, a career-high for him and an excruciating experience for those of us watching at home. Yet for all the complaints about the officiating in that game, Paul certainly deserves credit for his effort – his nine attempts in the fourth quarter were crucial for the Clippers' comeback attempt as the Clippers otherwise had to rely heavily on 1-on-1 play; take away Paul's 13 fourth quarter points mostly on free throws and Jamal Crawford's 12 fourth quarter points mostly from beyond the arc and the rest of the Clippers had just six points with Blake Griffin having none.
Yet in a game featuring a pair of star point guards in the starting lineup, it's quite impressive that it was the play of a point guard off the bench that really stands out.
Warriors statistical MVP: Jarrett Jack helping to keep the Warriors' offense going
In the Warriors' two wins thus far, Stephen Curry is a combined 8-for-30 from the field and just 2-for-13 from the 3-point line. A large part of what helped them survive a so-so offensive performance from Curry last night was the play of Jack.
Setting aside his -3 plus/minus rating, having a point guard that can come off the bench and come up with 7 assists without committing a turnover is a luxury most teams don't have, especially for the Warriors' franchise. He's still spending a large portion of his time playing alongside Curry (27 minutes last night) and it has been an effective lineup with Curry able to come off screens with Jack setting him up. With Curry having a bit of an off-shooting night last night, Jack leveraged an old connection to hit Landry for 3 of his 7 assists. But so far this season, we've seen the double point guard pairing work even better than those of us who expected to see the Warriors staff go to it on occasion. Jack's ability to pass and score makes it a potent combination, even if we might expect that pairing to struggle defensively against bigger backcourts.
In any event, the bench combination of Landry and Jack has not only given the Warriors a boost but has arguably carried the team in times of struggle by giving them additional ways to generate offense and taking some of the pressure off of Curry. Seeing them perform as well as they did last night without Bogut even on the floor has to be enough to give even the most pessimistic fan a jolt of optimism about the team's prospects this season.
For more on the Warriors win over the Clippers last night, visit our game stream from yesterday.