SAN FRANCISCO — The seeds Stephen Curry planted with his now-legendary speech are still bearing fruit. The product was ripe green in the 127-100 win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
“He said powerful words,” said JaMychal Green. “It kind of locked me in and gave up on everything. It’s just a team thing. »
The last time the Warriors won, Game 7 in Sacramento, Curry scored 50 on a career-high 38 shots. In Thursday’s win, he took just 12 shots. The last victory? One of the greatest individual performances of all time, a celebration of a once-in-a-generation superstar. This victory? A collective assault, a flex of depth and versatility. Unity is strength makes a retro appearance.
Juan Toscano-Anderson was in the building, flossing his championship ring. Quinn Cook was in the house. You could almost see Shaun Livingston there and Leandro Barbosa blurring the sidelines. Marresse Speights even felt nostalgic.
It worked so well that it may have failed a bit. The Warriors beat the visitors so badly that the Lakers stars got a well-deserved rest. LeBron James only played 28 minutes, Anthony Davis only 33. After being forced to play the entire fourth quarter of Game 1, they sat out the entire fourth quarter on Thursday.
But the Warriors also kept their guys fresh and activated other dormant parts of the operation. Game 2 was about depth. Game 2 was all about overwhelming the Lakers with waves of options. The Warriors supporting cast needed a game like this. They came forward to change the content of this series.
In Game 1, the Lakers got great performances from Dennis Schröder and D’Angelo Russell. The question is whether they can produce regularly. Draymond Green tied Davis in Game 2 and held it to 11 points on 11 shots. So even if LeBron was rolling — scoring 21 of his 23 points in the first half, on 9 of 13 shooting — they needed more.
Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 21 for the Lakers. But that wasn’t even enough. The Warriors applied pressure in waves, and eventually the Lakers realized they got what they came for – a split. The Warriors seemed deeper, younger, fresher.
This whole series won’t be like that. Lakers support characters to play better in Los Angeles. Curry is going to have to put on his cape. Klay Thompson won’t be able to stop at 30 points when he’s scorching like he did on Thursday when he was 8 of 11 from 3 but only needed to play 31 minutes. But before that happened, the Warriors gave the Lakers a look at their inventory.
Klay Thompson gives Warriors edge over Lakers
JaMychal Green was the standard bearer for Strength in Numbers this time around. He borrowed it from Moses Moody.
He played sparingly in the Sacramento series. To avoid going down 0-2 – this time in a worse way, since they are at Chase Center – the Warriors desperately needed to flutter the Lakers defense. But they also needed size on the pitch. So they turned to JaMychal Green, who could expand the floor while executing the plan to get the Warriors physical.
With the Warriors, JaMychal Green appeared in his fewest regular season games since 2017-18. He has averaged his fewest minutes since his rookie season in 2014-15. He was out of rotation and nearly written off as a disappointing addition, a failed attempt to replace the still-integral Otto Porter Jr. of last season’s championship chase. Thursday, out of nowhere, it was starting.
He knocked down half of his six 3-pointers, converted three more baskets in the paint and finished with 15 points. He punished the Lakers defense, which parks Davis in the paint to protect the rim.
He started the party one night in which the Warriors went to nine. The Lakers remained focused on eliminating Curry. The Warriors responded by getting the ball more in his hands and performing more pick-and-rolls. The terror of his departure forced the Lakers to trap and Davis out of the paint. And Curry responded by cutting out the Lakers, inviting the extra attention and trusting his teammates.
“That’s the beauty of Steph,” Steve Kerr said. “He is so selfless. Twelve assists tonight. He is ready to do anything to win. … Just the way things clicked, I think Steph was very happy to be a more traditional playmaker.
He finished with 20 points on those 12 shots and 12 assists. He derives satisfaction from racking up assists, as evidenced by the hand goggles he kept throwing up. Don’t think for a second that it wasn’t a sacrifice.
“But I also like to shoot,” Curry said. “We are able to play in different ways. I am able to play in different ways. As long as we just create open shots, it doesn’t matter who takes them – and obviously tonight I didn’t have many for a reason – the ball finds the right person and good things happen.
Warriors punch through lethargic Lakers defense in Game 2, tie second-round streak
Still, it takes the “others” of the Warriors, as Shaquille O’Neal calls them, to produce. With a two-game losing streak at home and facing a daunting holeshot, their confidence paid off.
Donte DiVincenzo looked like the player who became beloved during the regular season with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a trademark hustle. Moody also moved up the rotation, grabbed 7 rebounds and 3 of his 10 points came on a step back on LeBron with the shot clock down. Even Jonathan Kuminga got burned, playing the final 9:43 after the Lakers waved the white flag.
During the three quarters, the Warriors had 34 assists on 42 baskets.
“When we move the ball like that,” Draymond Green said, “everyone is involved, it makes us harder to keep. But I think it all started defensively. defensive side and we did a good job of bouncing the ball.
They did so despite Kevon Looney, who fell ill, barely playing. Neither did Gary Payton II. Still, the Warriors had more than enough.
The Warriors pride themselves on a playoff series to make adjustments and determine opponent weaknesses. It is too early to know if they have already done so. But Thursday was their counterattack. They did it by playing more guys. They did this by attacking from a plethora of angles. They did it by picking up the pace and challenging the Lakers to follow.
In the second quarter, Curry came back into the game to close out the half. The Warriors led four. They pushed the lead to 10 when he committed his third foul and had to go out. There were 2:33 left in the second quarter and the Warriors are known to have given up a late quarter run. It sounded like bad news. But at the end of the half they were leading 11. Curry only played 16 minutes in the first half and it didn’t cost them.
If this series becomes a battle of attrition, the Warriors should be fresher by the end. Because, as Game 2 showed, they have a deeper well.
(Photo by JaMychal Green: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)