And then everything clicked, the defense locked in, the bench played brilliantly, and Steph Curry did the things that vaulted him to the top of the MVP ballot twice before, and seem to have him there for a provisional third.
Suddenly a 22-point deficit was a 10-point victory, and the Dubs had a winning record.
So was it executing the pregame keys to victory that led Golden State to an inspired 115-105 win? I didn’t have anything about the bench in my pregame keys, and that proved a mistake. And prior to Wednesday’s game I had “In a battle of MVP candidates, have Steph Curry look like the best player on the floor,” which I clearly should have kept in there for Friday.
But alas. Let’s revisit.
Take the lid of Oubre’s basket
The key: Kelly Oubre Jr. needs to make at least two shots from beyond the arc.
The outcome: Nope. Oubre was once again absent from distance, missing all three of his attempts.
It was the sixth time in the team’s nine games that Oubre failed to make a three-pointer, though the three attempts was the fewest in any of those six games (in the other five he went 0-for-4 once, 0-for-5 once, and 0-for-6 three times). It brought his total to 6-for-45 on the year.
But it was no matter, at least not for this game. For the first time all year, we saw Steve Kerr turn away from Oubre down the stretch, because the bench was able to do what Oubre was doing well (play intense defense), while doing the thing he wasn’t doing well (make shots).
The bench combined for eight triples, including two each from Damion Lee, Eric Paschall, and Brad Wanamaker. Still, Kerr said after the game that there won’t be a role change for Oubre; it was just playing the players who were controlling the game.
Kerr says no role change for Oubre: "This team is so new to one another, we just haven't found a groove with that starting lineup ... I don't anticipate changing anything. It's so early in the season. I want Kelly to gain some rhythm and some confidence. He's gonna be fine"— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) January 9, 2021
The threes will come, but they certainly didn’t come on Friday. Still, we’ll give him a tiny amount of credit for only missing three, instead of six.
Grading the key: 1 out of 10.
Grab some boards
The key: Don’t lose the rebounding battle as poorly as it was lost on Wednesday.
The outcome: Two days after losing the rebounding battle by a whopping 13 boards, the Warriors actually won it on Friday, 38-37.
That was doubly impressive when you consider the lineups put on the floor: the Warriors used their centers — James Wiseman and Kevon Looney — for just 27 minutes. The Clippers used theirs — Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac — for 47. The Warriors goal was likely to just not get clobbered on the glass, and instead they actually won the battle while playing small.
Huge credit to the wings and guards like Oubre, Wanamaker, and Andrew Wiggins, who crashed the glass all night.
Grading the key: 9 out of 10.
Make the adjustments
The key: Adjust to the Clippers defense and get Steph Curry the ball with space.
The outcome: This key wasn’t looking good when we went to halftime, but in the second half things started to come through. Curry finished the day with 14 attempts from distance, and while many of them were the result of individual brilliance, the Warriors were also able to get him the ball where he could be brilliant, which didn’t happen much on Wednesday.
38 points and 11 assists on 13-for-24 shooting? Safe to say some adjustments were made.
Grading the key: 7.5 out of 10.
Make it hard on The Klaw
The key: Andrew Wiggins needs to make Kawhi Leonard’s life difficult.
The outcome: Leonard had a totally fine game, netting 24 points on 7-for-17 shooting with 4 assists to 2 turnovers. But Wiggins did make him work for those points. Leonard rarely had easy or automatic buckets, and didn’t seem to have quite as much life on defense as on most nights.
Grading the key: 6.5 out of 10.
Any win is good, but that win was especially good.