The Golden State Warriors took on the Chicago Bulls at 7:30 PM PST last night, but the game was over when the Bulls announced just hours before tip-off that both Dwyane Wade (upper respiratory infection) and Jimmy Butler (heel injury) would miss the game.
Two-time Shaqtin-A-Fool winner, JaVale McGee, continued his surprise season, putting up 13 points in 16 minutes. With all the spacing around him, McGee can easily attack the basket and catch lobs from teammates. That athleticism is a rare trait on Golden State's roster, and it makes the offense unstoppable. Per Anthony Slater of Mercury News, no other lineup in the NBA has performed better than the Warriors' starting lineup with McGee instead of Zaza.
Among lineups that've played 80+ minutes together, this GSW 5-man unit (Curry, Klay, KD, Draymond, JaVale) has NBA's best net rating: 37.1 pic.twitter.com/c8EACFt4qh— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 9, 2017
The main issue with McGee comes on the defensive side of the ball, where he sometimes gets lost and overzealously jumps for blocks. The latter has proven to be a literal pain in the ass for McGee, who landed painfully on his bottom after jumping on a Robin Lopez pump fake.
"I asked him how he was doing," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame. "He said he landed on his butt. I said, 'What's the prognosis?' He said, 'Well, both cheeks really hurt.’ ...
"We'll check the cheeks individually tomorrow and we'll see how he's doing."
Otherwise, McGee was solid all night, even defensively. He helped put an end to the Bulls' hopes of winning in the third quarter when he blocked what should've been an easy layup for Lopez and then darted down the court for a dunk on the other end.
JaVale McGee mastering his simple role: contest at the rim, sprint the floor, finish if it's tossed your way pic.twitter.com/HPEUxL0nzI— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 9, 2017
It remains to be seen whether McGee can keep up his solid play in the postseason.
While the offense wasn't a problem against the Bulls -- the Warriors put up 123 points -- balancing the shot distribution between Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant has been a challenge. After having his worst game as a Warrior in the last game versus the Kings, Durant was noticeably more aggressive in this one and almost ended up with a triple-double. Curry, on the other hand, played off-the-ball for most of the game and finished with just 13 points and 6 assists.
Not only are the Warriors more entertaining when Curry is playing like the back-to-back MVP, but Steve Kerr says the team is at its best when Curry bombs away, Per CBS Sports:
"Our team even realized that when Steph just is aggressive and is shooting his 30-footers in transition and going nuts, that's when we are at our best. KD not only appreciates it, but enjoys it and feeds off of that. And you never worry about Klay. Klay's going to get his shots up."
Durant's offensive prowess goes without saying, but Curry's transition bombs from 30 feet add a whole new dimension to the game. They get the crowd buzzing, teammates start feeding off the energy and opposing defenses snap. Against most teams, this isn't an issue; they'll win no matter who's shooting. However, it's something they have to figure out at the end of close games.
Briante Weber made his Warriors debut when he checked in for Curry with 2:58 left in the third, and his defense was as advertised, getting multiple deflections and diving in the passing lanes. He also got a nice assist on the other end.
Briante Weber's first Warrior assist is a nifty one pic.twitter.com/5yqd9tJshH— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 9, 2017
With Saturday approaching, it's almost time for the point guard matchup we've been waiting for: Russell Westbrook vs. Briante Weber.