Reliable Golden State reserves maintain Warriors' high level
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, center, drives past Golden State Warriors' JaVale McGee (1) during the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
By Janie McCauley, Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — They are "The Others," Golden State's tight-knit second unit of non-superstars. The backups, and a talented bunch, indeed.
Shaun Livingston heard a while back that Shaquille O'Neal had been referring to Steve Kerr's reliable reserves as "The Others." It caught on — and no insult taken by the Warriors.
"It makes sense, I know what he was trying to say," Livingston said of Shaq. "It's more about separating the superstars to the bench guys, the superstars to the others or starters to the bench, however you want to say it."
They were a huge reason the NBA-best Warriors rebounded from a short rough patch to run off a 14-game winning streak after Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury.
They take great pride in their roles of spelling KD, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson while maintaining a high level of play.
"A lot of people do talk about the four of us, but one thing that's constant in this organization is everybody — the strength in numbers," Green said, "the depth that we rely on so heavily throughout the course of the year and through the playoffs."
And who knows? It might not be much of a stretch that Golden State's second team could be a playoff eight seed on its own.
The Warriors needed everybody on their bench during Durant's recent 19-game absence, and again Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in a commanding playoff win against the Trail Blazers as KD sat out with a strained calf. Golden State leads the best-of-seven series 2-0 as it shifts to Portland for game three on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time).
"We all should be so lucky to have 'Others,' right?" said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, a former Warriors top assistant.
Andre Iguodala held his follow-through a little longer to punctuate the Curry-like three-pointer he swished at the halftime buzzer against Houston on the final day of March. David West dished out five of his season-best assists in short order during one second-quarter flurry to get the offense rolling April 4 (April 5, PHL time) while facing Minnesota. Ian Clark missed a couple of long jumpers and, just as his teammates urge him to do, fearlessly kept firing them until his shot began to fall — at key moments as Golden State held off the Rockets.
And how about Livingston's smooth shooting night after night, or JaVale McGee's big blocks and dunks off perfect lob passes that he keeps putting down. McGee made all seven of his shots with several alley-oops in Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) 110-81 win.
"When he can electrify the crowd with a huge block and the alley-oop dunks and things like that, it's just a different dynamic that we love to have," Curry said.
Kerr has so much confidence in all his players to contribute when their names are called. He has mixed and matched the versatile reserves to keep his starters in the rotation at all times, and it has worked brilliantly.
"We've just got a good collective group IQ. Guys have seen a whole lot, experience is key for us, and we just try to play off that more than anything," West said, "approach the game with a certain level of seriousness to try to be effective when we're on the floor. KD going out forced some guys to take on some bigger roles and I think it's going to help us later in the year."
Iguodala had barely checked into game one for the first time Sunday (Monday, PHL time) when he drew a charge against Al-Farouq Aminu.
Portland's Damian Lillard was perplexed by how McGee beat them in game two.
"They're an outstanding team and obviously their core four guys get a lot of attention but their guys who come in off the bench, like JaVale McGee had an impact on the game at both ends, and David West has played at a high level for a long time in his career, and obviously Iguodala," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "They all complement those four guys really well and Steve has a lot of trust in them."
Iguodala and Livingston have mentored Clark and rookie Patrick McCaw.
They go crazy for Clark, with his retro headband. West made a key rebound on a miss Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) by Clark and converted a turnaround hook shot. Clark made his next attempt and has scored in double figures both playoff games so far — noting, "I just guess against this team, the shot's falling."
Everybody knows how potent the second unit can be.
"I think what happens is you tend to overlook the importance of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Those guys have been good players in this league for a long, long time."
Iguodala and Livingston accepted lesser roles with the addition of Durant but have since been called upon to do more. Nobody's counting minutes.
"It's about camaraderie, it's about getting better," said assistant coach Jarron Collins, who regularly studies film with McGee. "But it's also about practice habits. Obviously everybody sees Klay, Steph, Kevin, Draymond, all the bigs. So everybody's getting extra work in and that's the type of culture and the type of environment that you want for young players."