After a four-game road trip, the Golden State Warriors turned to the Bay Area to face the Miami Heat on Monday night. In a tougher, defensive-minded struggle (perhaps owing to Dion Waiters missing the game for the birth of his child) than one might have expected, the Warriors tallied a 97-80 victory that, save for a few moments early in the fourth quarter, never felt out of the Warriors control starting midway through the third.
Unusual offensive struggles
Perhaps the biggest story of Monday night’s game were the offensive struggles of the Warriors three marquee players— Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson. Each player shot under 40% from the field, owing to a focused Heat defensive effort that is not all that surprising for an Erik Spoelstra-coached team. Thompson was bothered by the Miami defense and Curry had at least four shots blocked by Heat defenders, with Josh Richardson in particular giving the Warriors trouble with his defense.
Despite their struggles in terms of scoring and playing an efficient game, all three were able to make solid contributions. Durant finished with a game-high 21 points, mainly by getting to the free-throw line 10 times and making all 10 attempts. Durant also played great defense yet again, blocking three Heat shots. Durant, whose highest blocks-per-game was last season when he averaged 1.6, is blocking 2.5 shots per game so far this season as he continues to be a consistent contributor on both ends of the court.
Curry, who posted a game-high +25 in 34 minutes of game action, ended the game with 16 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. Two of Curry’s points came on this shot at the end of the first quarter to give the Warriors a one-point lead.
Despite struggling with their shots through a combination of good Miami defense and unlucky bounces, the Warriors’ big three were able to make positive contributions and the team was able to earn a comfortable victory. A big part of that was one Warriors player picking up much of the scoring slack.
We did not forget about Dray
Our pick for the game’s Warrior Wonder covered this in much greater detail, but Draymond Green carried the scoring load with Curry, Durant, and Thompson all struggling on offense in the first half. 12 of Green’s season-high 18 points came from 3-point range as it appeared as though Green had finally found his long-range shooting stroke after a rough beginning to the season.
Almost as important as his scoring to keep the Warriors on track early in the game was Green’s defense, especially on the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside. In another sterling performance against one of the league’s better big men, Green helped limit Whiteside to just 3 points and 6 rebounds, both well below his season average.
One image of Whiteside sitting on the bench did a good job of summing up the kind of night he was having, a rough night that was largely because of Green’s defense.
Hassan isn’t impressed with his stats tonight pic.twitter.com/dSbMHKHTbS— hector (@iamHectorDiaz) November 7, 2017
The Warriors’ bench also played a good game, helping to make up for the (relative) off-nights for the team’s primary scorers. Not surprisingly, it was Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston (back in the lineup after sitting out the game in Denver to rest) who made the most substantial contributions. Iguodala scored 4 points to go with his 4 rebounds and 3 assists while posting a +13 in 27 minutes. Livingston contributed 5 points and grabbed 4 rebounds while also making 2 steals in 15 minutes of game action.
Iguodala was still less assertive on offense than I like to see (only attempting 3 field goals, while last season he averaged 5.5 per game). But if his plus/minus is still that high and the Warriors are getting offensive contributions from other bench players, it’s probably not something worth worrying about.
With David West sitting out the game to rest, the Warriors needed to fill in those big-man minutes and they got a great deal of help from Kevon Looney. In 17 minutes of action, Looney scored 5 points including this dunk that gave the Warriors the lead with 5 minutes left to go in the second quarter.
Looney also snared 3 rebounds and blocked 3 shots, playing very good defense while guarding Miami’s big men. On one sequence late in the second, Looney combined with Durant for a very impressive defensive performance at a point when the game was still hanging in the balance.
This will be featured in the "Kevin Durant First-Team All-Defense" video promo campaign pic.twitter.com/PUeI0wZNKS— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) November 7, 2017
Looney showed off his defense again, especially his length and what he can use it to do, in the fourth quarter.
Kevon Looney's length a factor vs Heat pic.twitter.com/H6GoF7roaV— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 7, 2017
Much has been made of Looney’s weight loss but it is clear that, by dropping that weight, he was able to keep up with the pace at which the Warriors like to play. This provides them with another athletic big man that can come off the bench and eat up those center minutes so Green doesn’t get overworked.
Looney would not be the only big man to come of the bench and make a positive impact. Rookie Jordan Bell scored his two points here as the Warriors tried to overcome their slow start in the first quarter.
However, Bell’s performance can not be measured in just his point total. Coming in late in the first quarter with the Warriors trailing, the rookie was able to affect the game in all facets as the Warriors took that one-point lead without playing particularly well.
Jordan Bell in final 2:10:— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) November 7, 2017
- lob dunk
- good defense on James Johnson = turnover on pass
- pressure Olynk = turnover
- altered shot at rim
Bell’s plus/minus was +7, the second-best total for a bench player (behind only Iguodala), reflecting how when Bell was on the court positive things tended to happen.
In addition to the usual suspects (Iguodala and Livingston) and the two big men (Looney and Bell), Patrick McCaw also played well in his 14 minutes of game action. Two of McCaw’s four points came on this difficult layup, after a dime of a pass from Curry, that cut into that Heat lead midway through the second.
While he hasn’t been shooting at a high percentage, McCaw has solidified his spot as the first shooting guard off of the bench, ahead of Nick Young, in part by making the tough plays like this one at critical junctures in the game.
Even though Monday’s night game wasn’t the prettiest or the most fun to watch, that the Warriors could win (and win convincingly) on a night when their three top scorers all struggle bodes well for this team going forward. With a more defensive-focused performance like we saw against the Heat, the Warriors look to be continuing to get into regular season form.
Who was your Warrior Wonder against the Heat?
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