So I guess there is a switch, huh?
You knew it from jump when Steve Kerr inserted his ‘break glass in case of emergency’ piece Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup to create a lengthy, switching, behemoth.
You knew it from the first few possessions when they were flying ‘round with an energy, intensity and focus that I’m not sure we’ve seen since June 12th, 2017.
And of course, the All-Stars came to remind everyone who these Warriors are. They heard the slights and the slander, and responded accordingly.
Yes, the Warriors came out to play yesterday.
An unexpected Warrior Wonder
But there was one thing nobody saw coming.
Training camp two years ago, a non-guaranteed invite was extended to an athletic but mercurial center, who career was on the precipice. A former teammate — that Iguodala guy again — vouched for him, and that was enough to take a flyer on this bouncy big man.
Yes. I said it.
This was a Warrior Wonder if ever I saw one. People were wondering if McGee could be playable against a smart, crafty, veteran team coached by one of the all time greats in Gregg Popovich.
In the first quarter alone McGee put up 8 of their first 12 points. He was flying around, dipping in for crafty lay-ups, running the floor for monster dunks.
But where the surprise really came was on the defensive end. McGee deployed his length in a devastating fashion and with a discipline that few knew he had. Just look at these word-eating tweets.
Aldridge looking spooked by JaVale on those last couple misses.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 14, 2018
This is easily the best eight minutes I've seen JaVale McGee play.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 14, 2018
We will tell our grandchildren about Finals MVP JaVale McGee— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) April 14, 2018
LaMarcus Aldridge was, indeed, shook.
JaVale stuffs Aldridge at the rim, Durant drills the 3 the other way = fun stuff pic.twitter.com/0g139aTNdr— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 14, 2018
JaVale guarding LaMarcus 1-on-1 = a midrange airball pic.twitter.com/kasUNR9NpA— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 14, 2018
McGee finished with a season-high 15 points, to go along with four rebounds, two blocks, and possession of one soul.
From there on in, the Spurs had nothing.
The All-Stars came to play
But tonight’s Warrior Wonder is no easy choice. Across the roster, the performances from the All-Stars were really impressive.
Quite simply, Klay Thompson had a monster game. If JaVale set the tone early, then Thompson took the game and buried it in an avalanche of splash.
On just 13 shots he poured in 27 points, including 18 in the second half. His movement off the ball was as crisp and constant as ever, and his jump shot was straight up butter.
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant played exactly the way he needs to with Steph Curry sidelined. He was locked-in defensively, creating offensively for teammates, and scoring with a devastating ease that few in the NBA can.
He finished with 12 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, two steals, one block, and a stare down of Aldridge that had me almost feeling sorry for the guy.
Draymond strips the ball away from Aldridge in an iso situation and Draymond looks back at Aldridge to let him know about it pic.twitter.com/oVlen94FLe— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 14, 2018
And finally, as is always the case when the playoffs roll around, starting Andre Iguodala is a very good idea.
He brings a focus to proceedings that only he can with his experience and intelligence, and allowed the Warriors to ensure they maximised their length on the court to disrupt whatever the Spurs tried to do on the offensive end.
It also solved a problem on the second unit by utilising Shaun Livingston (11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, five rebounds, two assists) in his best role as a playmaking wing, alongside Quinn Cook in the Ian Clark memorial role (and pretty much limiting Nick Young to garbage time).
A stroke of lineup genius, unlocked by Iguodala’s legendary versatility.
Igoudala replaced a center (Andrew Bogut) in the 2015 Finals and won the series MVP. He replaced a point guard (Quinn Cook) today and led the defensive charge.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) April 14, 2018
The value in that versatility and effectiveness ... is immense.
Tonight’s Warrior Wonder: JaVale McGee
There’s not much more that DubNation could have hoped for in the opening game. In the end though you kind of expected that level of focus from the All-Stars, and perhaps Kerr to have something up his sleeve.
But McGee was the X-factor. So while any one of these guys could stake a serious claim, that’s why my Warrior Wonder for the opening game of the Warriors 2018 NBA Playoff run is the Javale Freakin’ McGee.
Who do you have as the Warrior Wonder in the opening game of the playoffs?
Who was your Warrior Wonder in the opening game of the 2018 playoffs?
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