Nine down, seven to go. The Golden State Warriors put their awful Game 5 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies deep in the rearview mirror on Wednesday night, crushing the Dallas Mavericks 112-87 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
There’s still a very, very long ways to go in the series, and every year the playoffs remind us that you can’t draw very many conclusions from a Game 1. Still, the Dubs did everything that you wondered if they’d be able to do: they were able to get out in transition, which is vital against Dallas; they held Luka Dončić in check; and they got strong contributions from their role players.
It’s only one game, and a 25-point win counts for no more than a one-point win. But it sure makes for a fun way to spend a Wednesday night.
Now let’s sit down and grade the performances, weighting for our expectations of each player.
Note: League-average true-shooting percentage (TS) was 56.6% this year.
29 minutes, 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 4-for-6 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 2-for-3 free throws, 68.3% TS, +25
Lest anyone forget that Draymond Green can play exceptional defense ... Draymond Green can play exceptional defense. Better than anyone else can, I’d say.
Green didn’t have his usual gaudy assist totals in this game (though he also didn’t have the turnover issues that have plagued him lately), but that was largely because the Dubs pushed in transition so much. Green was a huge part of that, and I thought he did an excellent job playmaking. But when the Warriors are getting up the court quickly, Green is more of an early-possession facilitator than someone who is going to be making the final pass most of the time, so it isn’t always reflected in the assist column.
His offense was aggressive (and efficient) in this one, and that’s been a huge key for the Warriors lately.
35 minutes, 19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 8-for-17 shooting, 3-for-8 threes, 0-for-2 free throws, 53.1% TS, +28
Wiggins’ numbers didn’t end up being eye-popping, or even all that good, truthfully, as he went cold in the second half. But I don’t particularly care about that. He was the team’s offense in the first quarter, when they jumped out to a 10-point lead that they would never come close to relinquishing.
He had 15 points an 6-for-9 shooting at halftime, giving the Dubs a commanding lead despite slow starts from the Splash Brothers.
And while the Warriors threw a million and one looks at Dončić, the initial — and most frequent — look was single coverage with Wiggins. And Dončić shot 6-for-18 from the field with seven turnovers, which Wiggins played a massive role in.
So even though Wiggins had a kind of poor second half, I’m dismissing it. It didn’t occur until the game was decided, and the game was decided in large part because of Wiggins.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.
28 minutes, 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 5-for-5 shooting, 100.0% TS, +15
Looney joined Wiggins in having a sensational first quarter that put the Dubs in the driver’s seat for the whole game. That led me to fire off what I thought was a clearly playful tweet, and I’m only embedding it below so we can all laugh when I tell you that a not-insignificant number of people responded taking it seriously and getting mad at me.
The only question left to answer this NBA season is whether Andrew Wiggins or Kevon Looney will win Finals MVP— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) May 19, 2022
Only two games ago, Jonathan Kuminga was starting in Looney’s place. Only four games ago, Looney was playing fewer than nine minutes.
And today he was dominating the Mavs in the paint in the first quarter as the Warriors built up an insurmountable lead, and playing starter’s minutes.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in assists.
31 minutes, 21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 7-for-16 shooting, 3-for-9 threes, 4-for-7 free throws, 55.0% TS, +23
It took Curry a little while to get going in this one. His shots weren’t falling at first, and the bizarre free throw woes continued. Though give him credit in this one for what I thought was some very impressive defense.
Ultimately Curry took on the opposite role of Wiggins. Rather than doing the scoring that gave the Dubs the lead, he did the second-half scoring that put the team’s collective foot on Dallas’ throat. It was arrogant and ruthless, as is Curry’s MO.
And, critically, it allowed him to rest in the fourth quarter.
Also, he had 34.3% of the Mavericks’ entire rebounding total, which is obscene.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points and rebounds, tied for the team lead in assists.
35 minutes, 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 7-for-13 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 57.7% TS, +20
Klay was ice cold in the first half, as he didn’t score a single point. Yet he still rebounded to have an efficient offensive performance.
Much of that is a credit to his shot selection. Some Warriors fans were worried about that element of Thompson’s game, after he seemingly shot the ball every time he touched it when he returned to the court following a two-and-a-half year absence. But he was just trying to shoot the rust off, and now that the games really matter, he’s dialed it back a bit and the results are glorious.
His playmaking was strong, and he spent some time guarding Dončić, and guarding him very well.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in assists.
5 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 foul, -3
This is simply not a series for what Bjelica brings to the table. Perhaps Steve Kerr will play him at some point if the offense is struggling and in need of some new buttons to press, but otherwise he’ll be limited to what he saw on Wednesday: garbage time.
5 minutes, 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 0-for-4 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, 20.5% TS, -3
Kuminga is a little more likely to play, but it’s not really his series, either. If we see him in non-garbage time, I’m guessing it will just be for two or three-minute bursts to offer up a different (read: more athletic) look.
Otto Porter Jr.
23 minutes, 10 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 5-for-7 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 71.4% TS, +16
It sure felt like Porter had been sidelined for more than just one-and-a-half games. He’s so vital to the team right now, and the style of basketball they’re playing, and that was apparent in his stint on Wednesday.
He was comfortable guarding Dallas’ smaller guards, their bigger forwards, and Dončić. He played a large role in Golden State winning the rebounding battle by 16 boards. He cut at the right times and made his shots.
OPJ just helps so, so much.
5 minutes, 0 points, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, -3
Just garbage time for JTA. If the last few series are any indication, he’ll get a few meaningful possessions at the end of quarters for his defense, but no serious run in the Conference Finals.
12 minutes, 3 points, 5 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 1-for-1 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 150.0% TS, -5
Lee is doing well given the fact that he’s not supposed to be in the rotation right now. Between Gary Payton II’s fractured elbow, Andre Iguodala’s injury, and the team probably being careful about not playing Porter too many minutes, Lee has been pressed into action, and he’s handling it really well.
26 minutes, 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, 8-for-12 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 73.8% TS, +15
Dallas had a very good defense this season, but it certainly feels like one that Poole is more than capable of exploiting. And exploit it he did on Wednesday, with an in-and-out game that seemed to stymy the Mavs. When they played him like a shooter, he drove by them. When they played him like a slasher, he stepped back and shot over them.
They seemed unable to play him like both, and Poole’s offensive game has evolved and matured to the point where he understands how to take advantage of that and manipulate it. And then on the rare occasions where the defense plays him well enough, he does stuff like this:
It’s a joy to watch.
5 minutes, 3 points, 1-for-1 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 150.0% TS, -3
Some garbage time for the rook. Fun to see him splash home a triplet.
Wednesday’s inactives: Andre Iguodala, Gary Payton II, James Wiseman