And just like that, we have ourselves a series. The Golden State Warriors had their backs against the wall on Thursday night, needing a win but not having Draymond Green or Gary Payton II available. And they not only got a win, but landed a blowout win that completely shifted the momentum of the series.
I’m tempted to give everyone an A+ for their efforts in the most important game of the season, but I’ll exercise restraint. Let’s grade them all though, weighting for our expectations of each player, with a “B” grade representing how I expect that player to perform.
Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. League-average TS this year was 58.2%.
31 minutes, 4 points, 20 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 2-for-6 shooting, 33.3% TS, +21
Before we get into the actual performance, let’s admire the theatrics of Looney’s performance.
With this bucket, Kevon Looney officially has 4 points and 20 rebounds on 4/20 pic.twitter.com/MHwODMKtQR— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) April 21, 2023
Fun numbers notwithstanding, Looney’s performance was legendary.
He gobbled up every rebound that came near him, finishing with not just 20 total boards, but nine on the offensive end. His defense against Domantas Sabonis was nothing short of elite, and Sabonis — who finished with 15 points on 14 shots and six turnovers — was visibly frustrated all night long.
In Draymond’s absence, Looney not only played all-world defense, but also was an extraordinary playmaker, putting himself in rare company.
Funny: Looney was the 41st instance of a player having at least 20 rebounds and 9 assists in a playoff game.— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) April 21, 2023
Complete list of the others who have done it
Stars don’t have to score 25 points. Sometimes they just need to dominate the game in other ways.
And Looney was nothing if not a star on Thursday.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds and assists.
34 minutes, 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 8-for-16 shooting, 3-for-6 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 59.2% TS, +17
Easily Wiggins’ best game since returning to the team. His defense on De’Aaron Fox was superb, and he scored with a serious sense of the moment. His rebounding returned to 2022 playoff levels, which could be a difference maker for this team.
Andrew said N PE— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 21, 2023
I don’t have too much to say, honestly. He just played really, really well.
37 minutes, 36 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 12-for-25 shooting, 6-for-12 threes, 6-for-6 free throws, 65.1% TS, +24
The defense was incredible. The energy was incredible. The bench was incredible. Looney was incredible.
But if you had to distill the win down to two things, they would be these: the Warriors finally took care of the ball, and they survived the minutes when Curry was on the bench.
Steve Kerr made a huge adjustment for this game that proved pivotal. Rather than giving Curry his usual five-six minutes of rest at a time, he benched Curry more frequently, for shorter bursts. The result was that the Kings were never able to build the type of sustained run that defined the first two games of the series.
And despite being the focal point of everything the Dubs did, Curry only turned the ball over one time. He was ultra locked in, and clearly the best player on the court.
Steph really kept his dribble alive the whole play— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 21, 2023
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points and plus/minus.
35 minutes, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 5-for-15 shooting, 3-for-10 threes, 43.3% TS, +16
Klay wasn’t much of a factor in this game, though the good news is he caught fire in the waning minutes, so hopefully that rhythm will carry over to Sunday’s Game 4.
Still, despite not playing his best, Klay was second on the team in minutes, and there’s a reason for that. Kerr and the Warriors players trust Klay, he makes winning plays, and his gravity helps open up the offense, no matter how he’s shooting.
I thought this was his best defensive game of the series, and he was more active on the glass than the rebound total would indicate.
28 minutes, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 4-for-13 shooting, 1-for-7 threes, 7-for-8 free throws, 48.4% TS, +13
Another not-good shooting night for Poole, but he does deserve some benefit of the doubt, seeing as how he’s playing on, as Klay called it, one foot. The four assists don’t do his playmaking justice, and he was vital in that area with Draymond not playing.
13 minutes, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 3-for-7 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 0-for-2 free throws, 38.1% TS, +6
Kuminga played a much bigger role than in the first two games, which wasn’t surprising given the absences. His play was so-so. He definitely gave Sacramento a different look with his athleticism, but also had a few poor plays and some blown assignments on defense.
JONATHAN. KUMINGA.— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 21, 2023
10 minutes, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 fouls, 0-for-2 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 0.0% TS, -4
Green got some extended run and looked pretty good defending Alex Len, who has given the Dubs fits in this series. He even looked good defending Sabonis on a few possessions.
This is the playoff role for JMG. Replace people who are injured/suspended/in foul trouble, or come into games for a spot of energy in the right matchup.
7 minutes, 0 points, 1 block, 1 turnover, 0-for-1 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 0.0% TS, -3
We knew Lamb was likely to get some playing time in this game, given the players who were out. The minutes were forgettable, save for an awesome blocked corner three.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
2 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, -5
PBJ got his first taste of playoff basketball, albeit in garbage time. Still counts!
Post-game bonus: Tied for the worst plus/minus on the team.
27 minutes, 6 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers, 1 foul, 2-for-8 shooting, 1-for-5 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 33.8% TS, +5
An absolutely incredible performance off the bench for DDV, who had perhaps the play of the year.
END OF QUARTER DONTE IS DIFFERENT pic.twitter.com/S8OSDKz8VZ— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 21, 2023
He finished the game with “only” four steals, but I’d bet he disrupted at least 10 plays with his defense. He was an absolute menace on that end of the court, filling the hole left by GPII, while filling the whole left by Dray in the playmaking department.
What an absolute weapon.
16 minutes, 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 fouls, 4-for-7 shooting, 2-for-5 threes, 3-for-3 free throws, 78.1% TS, -5
First, a note on plus/minus. Don’t look too much into the players on the Warriors with a bad plus/minus in this series. It really only tells us one thing: that those players spent a good amount of time on the court when Curry was on the bench.
This was one of the best games Moody has every played, and he followed it up with a fire quote at the podium.
Moses Moody: 13 points in 16 minutes tonight. Second straight playoffs he’s creeped into the rotation.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 21, 2023
“Humbly speaking, I’ve always been a winner.”
Vid via @957thegame pic.twitter.com/ErPiO9P5TQ
For those who have been critical that the Warriors didn’t play Moody more earlier in the year, well ... I highly recommend reading this article by Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News.
Moses Moody stays ready— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 21, 2023
Post-game bonus: Tied for the worst plus/minus on the team.
Thursday’s inactives: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Gary Payton II, Ryan Rollins