Because of the star power of the Warriors' Big Three (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green), the other players on the team's roster can often be overlooked. In the Warriors' Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, no bench player other than Andre Iguodala (and only later on in the series) outperformed expectations.
The 2016 Cavs have a deep bench, unlike last year's Finals team. This year, due to returning stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and recent acquisitions like Channing Frye, they've enjoyed a deep, potent rotation that's featured amazing bench play so far this playoffs, especially when three-point shooters are paired with LeBron James.
Today, the Warriors' star scorers couldn't get anything going. Steph couldn't get in any sort of rhythm offensively, and Klay had to deal with some early foul trouble that limited him to only 24 minutes. It isn't often that both of them are cold.
But from the very beginning, Draymond Green and the Warriors' role players were ready. Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut began the game strong, and ended up with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Draymond patrolled the paint, especially against LeBron James, and finished with a 16-11-7 stat line. Andre Iguodala exhibited his amazing hands on defense, clocked in a team-high +22, and took one in his nether regions, sparking a tremendous Warriors' run.
The most amazing Warriors today, though, were its two veteran guards Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston. Barbosa continues to not age, nailing all five of his shots at crucial times when the bench lineups have traditionally had lots of trouble scoring. Shaun Livingston scored a team-high 20 points, a playoff career high for him, thanks to his immaculate midrange skills. They're two of the most lovable guys on the team, and they deserve the recognition on the national stage. The Warriors' bench outperformed its starters, a rare feat.
The new-look Cavs boasting a much deeper and more recognizable lineup than last year's, but they didn't show much improvement today, shooting only 7-21 from three and only 38% overall, while looking consistently lost on defense. LeBron couldn't take over the game past the first quarter, Kevin Love was a wash, and Kyrie Irving's inefficient shot creation played into the Warriors' hands.
Looking forward, the Warriors have to be happy: they survived terrible shooting nights from both of their top scorers, and regained the superb play of Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and others who more or less disappeared during the Thunder series. The Warriors have to be glad that Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams aren't defending the paint, and that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't scoring at will. They're back to playing the kind of basketball they played throughout the regular season, and they're starting to look unstoppable (baby!) again.
Steph is a surprisingly OK post defender for a guy who looks like he's 12— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) June 3, 2016
Draymond gets ducked in, stops LeBron anyway. Gives up oreb, blocks LeBron, dives on floor for loose ball.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 3, 2016
Barbosa’s cooking Delly. We’ll see if Lue stays with him— J.A. Adande (@jadande) June 3, 2016
We need to clone Andre Iguodala's hands.— Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux) June 3, 2016
Bogut has matched his point total (10) for all of last year's #NBAFinals— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) June 3, 2016
This is why I always say, "Never hit Andre Iguodala in the balls during an NBA Finals game."— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) June 3, 2016
Warriors leading scorers right now, in order:— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) June 3, 2016
When you do nothing on a group project but still get an A pic.twitter.com/55MOwgbFe4— Snapchat: WavyNiko (@NikoWavy) June 3, 2016
No Steph or Klay threes today(!)
Wut. Barbosa. How. Part II https://t.co/kYSusAdlqx— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) June 3, 2016
"Where'd he go?" "Where'd WHO go......? " https://t.co/InZuYWqOUU— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) June 3, 2016
Steve Kerr hiiiiiii-ya https://t.co/86tfjCdEr3— Royce Young (@royceyoung) June 3, 2016
Nuts. https://t.co/KIIUPNDrTk— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) June 3, 2016
Horrible defense by Kyrie to reach around like this. https://t.co/S1epU3uwzu— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) June 3, 2016
- What a weird game! Nobody could've seen this kind of game coming, but nevertheless, it confirmed all of our suspicions: All of the Cavs' supposed weaknesses are real, and the Warriors can exploit them pretty well.
- Where in the world is JR Smith? or Channing Frye? or Iman Shumpert? or Matthew Dellavedova (minus the nut tap)? Look for the Cavs bench to bounce back.
- Will Timofey Mozgov play? His performance in last year's Finals was amazing, and the Cavs miss his rim protection a lot.
- Stephen Curry's legend continues to grow: rumors are circulating around the interwebs that he can actually defend LeBron, even in the post. Today, he defended LeBron a few times, displaying some underrated strength, good hands, and mobility.
- One of the reasons why Steph couldn't find his groove tonight could be the lack of true pick and rolls. Look for Steve Kerr to exploit the Cavs a bit more with the classic Curry-Green two-man game as the series progresses.
- RIP #FireKerr. Steve Kerr destroyed a clipboard, and coached a great game.
Follow Golden State of Mind at @unstoppablebaby, and Hugo at @HugoKitano