In the Golden State Warriors 26 point come-back victory versus the Boston Celtics on Sunday night there was an interesting development as Coach Steve Kerr only played 7 players more than 19 minutes. This usually never happens, is this a sign of things to come?
It was very strange to see Kerr go completely away from David Lee and Leandro Barbosa in the second half. Even though those two weren’t playing defense, they usually get consistent minutes because of their scoring ability. However, it was evident Kerr wanted defense; which is something the Warriors have struggled with for the last two months of the season. Playing Shaun Livingston extended minutes in the second half was a key factor in the Warriors winning the game. Granted, Stephen Curry with 37 points 4 rebounds and 5 assists continuing to cement himself as the NBA MVP was huge too.
Kerr playing Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Curry is ultimately what won them the game. A big reason why Andrew Bogut only played 19 minutes was because Boston went small and were playing Jae Crowder as the center. This played right into the Warriors’ hands.
It’s hard to tell if this was a preview of the Warriors playoff rotation, as some were indicating on twitter, or just a product of the match-ups the Warriors had. It’s evident that the Warriors feel defense is what’s going to win them games, because they won’t always make 10-12 three-point shots a game. If this ends up being Kerr’s rotation it’s obvious the Warriors are going to once again become incredibly difficult to score on.
There will be times where the Warriors will need Lee and Barbosa’s offense. Although Kerr believes the Warriors need to get their defensive intensity back and playing todays rotation will provide him with that.
Playing this combination of players is where the Warriors get versatility. There’s not that many teams who have 5 players of 6”6 to 6”8 athletes like the Warriors have. Playing these guys together will allow them to play a scramble style of defense, which will speed teams up and force them into mistakes. This is how the Warriors got back into the game against Boston.
Even though playing Green, Livingston, Iguodala, Barnes and Thompson a lot of minutes against Boston was successful, they still need a healthy Andrew Bogut. Having Bogut healthy will give them the versatility to match up with the big team like the Memphis Grizzlies, but also have the ability to match up smaller, quicker teams like the Atlanta Hawks if they meet in the NBA finals.
Defensive versatility is key, and the Warriors have it. It’s up to Kerr to find the right combination of players. It’s hard to tell if the combination of players the Warriors played in the comeback against Boston is their playoff rotation or not. These players, though, did respond really well when they were inserted into the game. Having the amount of quality defensive players Kerr has should have him smiling from ear to ear.
The Warriors have not played their best basketball recently, but, are still in first place in the Western Conference by a wide margin and have beaten a lot of the teams they might see in the Postseason. There’s still a lot of challenges remaining on the schedule, so the key for the Warriors will be to stay focused, get the defensive intensity back and not get too confident in their abilities.