The Golden State Warriors have harped over and over again all season long how content they are playing diminished minutes for the greater good. When you win 23 games out of 26, there isn't much room for disgruntled athletes, no matter how good you are. Depth is the trigger word for the player-speak that soaks up the conference room for 30 seconds at a time. Steve Kerr acknowledges that it is a huge part of their success and brings up Marreese Speights and Harrison Barnes in his examples. And Andrew Bogut and David Lee. And Andre Iguodala. And on and on.
"To be without David Lee for almost the entire season and now Andrew Bogut for a big chuck and to be 23-3 that tells you the story right there."
Up and down the roster, the Warriors are sacrificing something (the exception being the Splash Brothers given their importance to the offense). Andre Iguodala might not have been happy to start the season on the bench but has been aggressive in transition to the basket and his trademark defense is back. More than a few times, Iguodala was seen sprinting out of bounds under the basket after a Justin Holiday three. A minor benefit to the numerous Warriors wings playing at a high level against bad teams is that it allows Kerr to rest older players like Iguodala, who played only 24 minutes tonight.
And beyond David Lee responding "Absolutely" to the question of Draymond Green remaining a starter, he reminisced on the fact that he was on terrible teams in his New York Knicks career and his first couple seasons as a Warrior. The Warriors are really good and the players don't seem to mind playing lesser minutes in a winning situation. Perhaps things change if and when they hit a rough patch, but harmonious locker room, ownership, and player relationships is a neat aspect to what is a dream start to the season. Speights only played 13 minutes tonight. And was screaming nondescript things in the postgame locker room.
As for Justin Holiday, his skillset has appeared to have landed in the perfect situation. On a team stocked with suffocating wing defense and three-point shooting, his athleticism and talent only adds to the wealth. The downside to that has been a lack of court time, but with Leandro Barbosa struggling and at home against an awful Kings effort, Holiday had his time. He was attentive on off-ball defense, a bad habit for most young defenders, and showed off his athleticism in a jumping save on a ball in the corner. There's some Kent Bazemore-level defensive potential here. The difference lies in the offense. Holiday's jump shot is one of the purest of the team, with a high release point and elbow nicely tucked in. He hit a couple threes at the end but the most impressive part of his game was his varied offensive skillset. He made several cuts when recognizing the middle was open. Holiday also made a nice Euro-step move into the paint - don't confuse that with Speights' Euro-step - and kick out to a Klay Thompson three in the corner.
The Sacramento Kings aren't awful but coming off a back-to-back, the Warriors depth, tempo, and defense was too much. The Warriors only shot 36% from three, and less than 30% before the fourth quarter, but dominated on layups and a steady stream of wide-open midrange jumpers. This team isn't all about jumpers. They take whatever shots are open, and tonight, there was no denying them from any spot on the floor. It all added to the best Justin Holiday game in his NBA career.
1. David Lee admitted that tonight was the most nervous he's been before a game in five seasons.
"I felt like the game was going a thousand miles an hour in that first quarter I got in, that first stretch I felt kind of out of sorts."
As for his actual play, he was rusty as expected on finishes inside the paint and clanked his only jumper. He didn't do much dribble-handoff or pick-and-roll but I expect that to be a huge part of the offense when he's playing 20-25 minutes per game. Kerr also at one point flanked Lee with Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Playing your top four wing defenders with Lee isn't a coincidence. That's smart.
2. Festus Ezeli actually held his own against DeMarcus Cousins on defense. With Cousins on a back-to-back and visibly tired, Ezeli took advantage by pushing him out of the paint and into jump shots. But what's most surprising is the array of finishes he made in the third quarter. Running the pick-and-roll with Curry is a godsend for any big man. Ezeli finished on several floaters and even made a nice catch on a dunk. Just by being active running up and down the floor, Ezeli had several putback layups.
Kerr on Ezeli's strong game: "He just looks healthy now and he did a good job rolling to the rim and Steph (Curry) found him two or three times which got him going."
3. Steve Kerr post-game conferences have become a bit of a thing amongst media guys - if you count yours truly as one. Even against the daily questions of beat writers, he responds enthusiastically to pretty much anything. It helps when you're constantly winning. Kerr has been a great quote in every game I've got to. Here are some snippets.
On the bench: "We don't ever want to bring five reserves in at the same time." Heh.
On seeding: "Winning the division is important. It would give us home court in the first round. But I don't know if it matters. Pick a team. If you guys can find somebody that we'd like to face, let me know. There are eight great teams in the West. It probably doesn't matter where you finish."
In earlier games, he's talked about his dislike of fried chicken and having a beer instead of worrying about the Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason. That combined with numerous breakdowns of plays, Kerr is a fun and informative listen so far this season.
4. Stephen Curry threw an alley-oop to Klay Thompson. Come on.
The Warriors get the Lakers in Los Angeles tomorrow at 7:30 PST.