Warriors Second Unit Crucial In Win

by Jay Flaherty

The unsung heroes of Sunday’s game against the Blazers were, without a doubt, the second unit. Unlike much of the season thus far, Mark Jackson opted to mix in a couple of starters to help out Harrison Barnes and the rest of the reserves, anchored by the surprisingly strong defense of Lee against LaMarcus Aldridge. Lee did a good job all night of staying on the ground for shot fakes, while also running Aldridge off of open spot-up jumpers, forcing him into the less-efficient one-dribble pull ups. This squad stayed pat with the Blazers (28-22) for the final minute of the first quarter, giving Steph Curry and Klay Thompson some extra rest.

Again to start the fourth quarter, Jackson went with his second unit, only this time replacing Lee with Klay Thompson. This group in particular was impressive with how they defended and managed to balloon the lead from nine points all the way to 16 in over four minutes of play. Once Blazers coach Terry Stotts realized the Dubs had gone small, he put Aldridge in to take advantage, with Barnes being the tallest Warriors player on the floor at just 6’ 8”. What Stotts didn’t account for was the superb defense of Green, who either forced Aldridge to settle for a 15-foot jumper, or fouled him before he could get a layup (Draymond fouled out in just 18 minutes of play).

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That’s the (generously listed) 6′ 7” Draymond locking down the 6′ 11” Aldridge.

On the offensive end, Crawford provided a nice, albeit frantic spark, and Iggy provided the veteran presence vital to a successful second unit. A huge shift in style from the second unit that relied on Barnes to carry the scoring load earlier this year, this group played as a unit on defense and showed the ability to knock down open jumpers. Expect to see Jackson stick to the intermittent starters among the reserves, spelling Lee and Curry to finish out the game in the final minutes.

One consequence of the small-ball lineups Jackson used was that Bogut didn’t see a minute of playing time in the 4th quarter, and had minimal time on the floor in the 3rd quarter. This doesn’t mean Jackson has given up on Bogut, or that he is in the doghouse, or anything like that. The matchups against the Blazers simply warranted Bogut sitting, since Robin Lopez didn’t play a lick in the fourth quarter either. Perhaps if Aldridge had been tearing up Lee and Draymond, Bogut would have seen more action, but that just wasn’t the case last night. And the Dubs aren’t paying Bogut the big bucks to win games against the Blazers, necessarily. Bogut is valuable because he can defend the best centers in the league, and he is an elite defensive rebounder to boot.

These innovative lineups certainly paid dividends for Jackson. I think we can expect more experimenting and tinkering, especially with the second unit, in the weeks to come, hopefully yielding similarly positive results.

Plus/Minus Column

Pros and cons from the game.

1. Taking advantage of mismatches early in the shot clock. Pictured below is Harrison Barnes taking advantage of his height against Damian Lillard. Steph noticed the mismatch before he even crossed half-court, and just lobbed it over the top to him. Barnes took advantage of unprepared help side defense, and got a point blank layup.

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This has the added bonus of getting someone struggling, Barnes, an easy look.

2. High risk, low reward passes. Jim Barnett made a good point about this during the telecast. Lee had just thrown a cross court outlet pass to Curry leaking out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for easy fast-break points, but if Curry had even caught the pass (which sailed about 5 feet over his head) he would have had to go one-on-three to score. The Warriors committed just nine turnovers on Sunday, and eliminating the majority of passes like this is a big reason why.

3. Acknowledging good defense that leads to easy buckets. Bogut and Draymond both had nice blocks of Lillard that led immediately to a Warriors dunk or putback. Both times Steph, while running back on defense, pointed to the player who got the block, acknowledging that the easy bucket came from their play, not the Iguodala dunk or Lee putback that came shortly thereafter. When your star player places a high emphasis on defense, the rest of the team tends to follow suit.

Author: James

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