With a Bay Area rainstorm roaring in full force, it was slow getting to Oracle Tuesday night—and the pace did not pick up once inside the building.
The Warriors sleepwalked to a 107-95 victory over the habitually shorthanded Miami Heat, despite missing a player of their own, Klay Thompson, who sat out to rest after he had played the last two games despite being sick.
Rookie Patrick McCaw took Thompson’s spot for the first start of his career, which is exactly what it looked like. McCaw was tentative early, as was the rest of the starting lineup, who clearly missed the All-Star’s shooting touch.
He did rebound in his second stint on the court and Steve Kerr was quick to praise him:
“He handled the ball for us for a few possessions and he made a big three and his defense was good. Considering how little he’s played over the last month I thought he did a really good job of filling in for Klay and giving us what we needed.”
Without their aggressive shooting guard, the Warriors struggled to get good looks and make shots early and often.
Andre Iguodala said that without Thompson on the court defenses were able to concentrate more of the other Warriors’ stars:
“They were keying in on Kevin a little bit and when Klay’s out there they’re not able to. I think KD started out 0-for-4, 0-for-5 and a lot of those drives they were collapsing on him and he had to take tough shots. Whereas if Klay is out there it spreads the floor a little bit and he can get to the basket.”
When the Warriors got out and ran, they were almost unstoppable. Long passes leading to open layups and 3-pointers all game. Golden State leads the league in fast break points per game, averaging a little over 21 per contest — which they totaled in the first half alone and finished with a huge 34.
But it was their half-court offense that throttled any kind of rhythm they established on the break. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant led the team in scoring with 24 and 28 respectively, but both had to battle inefficiencies all game. Both Durant (10-for-21) and Curry (8-for-21) shot below 50 percent for the game.
Durant rebounded in the fourth, scoring nine points to make his line more respectable, and he said it was just him relaxing:
“Well I was rushing early on. My first five shots were terrible looks, just throwing the ball up there. But I settled in and told myself I don’t have to make up for Klay being out, just play my game and we are going to do it as a group. And it started to come to me a bit.”
In fact, the only Golden State starter to shoot better than 50 percent from the field was Zaza Pachulia who 3-of-5 and finished with eight points.
It was the bench for the Warriors that navigated the waters inside of Oracle as Ian Clark finished with 10 points, Iguodala had nine and Shaun Livingston finished with eight on a combined 11-of-20 shooting.
They pulled the Warriors ahead in the second quarter even pushing the lead to 10 points, all without either Curry or Durant on the floor.
That was something Kerr said he planned on doing to see what that lineup with Draymond Green would look like:
“I liked what I saw from that group, they changed the game with their defense… That lineup may not have as much firepower but it’s got a lot of length and defense.”
The Warriors’ struggles came against the skeleton of a Miami team that had only 10 players in uniform for the game and has been shorthanded since the season started.
They are already without sophomore starter Justise Winslow — out for the year after shoulder surgery — and Chris Bosh, whose career may or may not be over. But they are also missing Josh McRoberts and starting shooting guard Josh Richardson.
Plus, center Hassan Whiteside just returned last game after missing four straight with a with an eye injury, and this is just the fourth game back for Dion Waiters, who missed 20 games with a tear in his groin.
All that added up to what looked like a scheduled win, even with Thompson sitting out. But the pesky Heat were able to hang in until very late. Hassan Whiteside dominated the Warriors inside going for 28 points and 20 boards, but it wasn’t enough as the Warriors surged ahead in the fourth.
After being outscored 32-13 in the fourth in their disheartening loss to Memphis the Warriors have now outscored their last two opponents in the fourth quarter. It’s been just by a single point both times, but it’s an improvement over being outscored by 19.
Curry said he’s noticed a difference in the Warriors just being decisive late in these contests:
“We didn’t turn the ball over, which is helpful to at least get shots on the rim. But we had a couple possessions where we knew exactly what we wanted to get and we executed. Whether we make or miss shots you live with that, but not turning the ball over and getting a lot of movement and not settling, that was big for us.”
And if the coming storm of games is any indication, the Warriors are going to need that clarity during the fourth to show itself. Because they can’t afford to continue to shrink in the fourth quarter, not if they want to finish the year with a title.
After their win the Warriors continue on their tough four-game homestand. They get a day off before taking on the Detroit Pistons Thursday with two much anticipated matchups with the Cavaliers and Thunder looming in the distance. But they can’t afford to look past the Pistons, who lost by just six in their last matchup and are led by always dangerous big man Andre Drummond who is averaging 23.4 points and 13.8 rebounds over his last five games.
Stephen Curry was named Western Conference Player of the Week yesterday as he put up averages of 31.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds during the four-game stretch. It’s the eighth time Curry has been awarded the player of the week, which is the most in Warriors history, Tim Hardaway is second with five. … Coming into the game Zaza Pachulia scored in double figures in four straight games, the longest such streak of the season. He had scored in double figures in every game of 2017 after doing so in just two games in the first 32 games of 2016. … Kevin Durant finished the game with two blocked shots, which ended his streak of three straight games with at least three blocked shots. It was the longest streak he’s ever had, and Durant is averaging a career best 1.7 blocks on the year.