Instead of the 1-2 punch of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson going blow-for-blow with Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, it was another duo that propelled the Warriors to a 111-104 victory Monday.
A duo of bigs. One young, and one — not so young.
Jordan Bell, who slid into the starting center spot, was as active as ever pulling down five boards, dishing out two assists, swiping one steal and blocking one shot. Add that to his 11 points on an array of layups and dunks and the rookie continues to make his case for extended minutes.
But, somewhat surprisingly, it was his backup that out-dunked the 22-year-old. Thirty-seven-year-old David West bent time and space on a couple throwback hammers. Case in point:
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 12, 2017
West finished with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting and four blocks in just 18 minutes.
Steve Kerr couldn’t speak highly enough about what West is doing this year:
“David’s had a spectacular season. I mean it’s crazy, it seems like every night he’s doing this. Hitting five or six shots, blocking shots, setting screens, I mean he’s one of the smartest players out there on the floor every night. He’s just been brilliant.”
In what he said will be his final season, West has been quietly the Warriors’ best big man.
But the 15-year veteran is not ready to say he’s a better player this year, merely a more comfortable one:
“Just more comfortable, just know what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to get out of it. The group has changed a little bit in terms of personnel but it’s just being comfortable, knowing my role and having a good time while I’m out there.”
His 6.7 points and 3.4 rebound averages won’t blow anyone away, but his impact lies deeper than that. His per-36 minute numbers tell more of the story, with the vet averaging 19.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes played, which would easily be the best numbers of his career.
Mix in his 65-percent shooting clip and West is proving to be invaluable to his Warriors team, particularly given its rash of injuries.
Draymond Green was a late scratch as the shoulder soreness that has been plaguing him for about a week was enough to force him to sit out for the second time in three games. He joined Zaza Pachulia and Stephen Curry on the list of walking-wounded as the Warriors are now without three-fifths of their starting lineup.
Kerr said that these types of games, playing and winning without some of their stars are very beneficial:
“These type of nights are powerful for a team. Where guys are able to get out there who aren’t usually in the lineup. It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good and it just strengthens the depth.”
But with the way Durant is playing whatever fraction of the lineup that’s missing is irrelevant, because Durant alone makes it add up to one whole. In the three games Curry has missed, Durant has been transcendent, averaging 32.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 3.3 blocks per game. He led the team once again Monday night, pouring in 28 points on just 21 shots.
The final remaining normal starter, Thompson, struggled with his shot for the second-consecutive game. Thompson finished with 24 points but shot just 4-of-10 from deep and is now just 6-of-19 from 3 in his last two games. He did finish the game with two huge 3’s to ice the game.
Shots that Durant said he had no doubt about:
“When you see Klay Thompson wide open in the corner, you don’t even have to worry about even looking at the shot. It just feels like it’s going in every time.”
But with the contributions from the bench, the Warriors seem to be just fine with just two All-Stars.
After a long six-game road trip, the Warriors get just a quick two-game homestand before heading back out on the road. They take on the Dallas Mavericks Thursday, before going on a short trip to LA to battle the Lakers.
Kevin Durant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week Monday, averaging 30.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 blocks in three games last week. … The Warriors entered Monday’s contest with 10 straight victories over the Blazers, including the last year’s playoffs when they swept Portland in the first round. … Former-Warrior Matt Barnes announced his retirement Monday. Barnes played 15 years in the NBA with three coming as a member of the Warriors, and he capped off his career with his first NBA Championship last year. … Nick Young scored 12 points in his 13 minutes of action before sustaining a concussion in the third quarter. He didn’t return to the game and has to enter the league’s concussion protocol, which may force him to join the list of injured Warriors.