OAKLAND (CBS SF) — For much of the NBA post-season, the Golden State Warriors reserves have been relegated to being cheerleaders on the bench.
Then Warriors star Kevin Durant was lost with an injury and Game 6 loomed large against Houston. In the pivotal second-round playoff game, the bench stepped up, helping Golden State battle to a tie at halftime with Steph Curry in foul trouble and being held scoreless.
The reserves scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to spark the 118-113 upset of the Rockets, advancing the Warriors to their fifth straight NBA Western Conference Finals.
On Tuesday night in the conference finals opener, the reserves again played a key role. They scored 36 points and grabbed 18 rebounds and when the Portland Trailblazers pulled within 6 after three quarters, key plays by Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney and Quinn Cook built the lead back to double digits.
“Steve (Kerr) told us a couple days ago — everybody be ready because this is the series everyone could possibly play in,” said Draymond Green following the win. “We’ve said it over and over, those guys (the Warriors reserves) are professionals. They stay locked in. Every day I would walk into the gym — Jonas is on there shooting, waiting for his opportunity. He’s played big for us the last two games.”
Jerebko scored nine points and grabbed 5 rebounds in nearly 15 minutes of play Tuesday night. Cook hit a pair of key 3-point shots in the second half and Looney was a stalwart on defense, scoring 6 points, pulling down 2 rebounds and a blocking a shot.
“The series is going to get tougher and tougher, contrary to what every headline will say tomorrow,” Green said. “We know how tough it’s going to be so we need those guys (the reserves) to stay locked in and give us what they have given us the last two games.”
The Warriors star said the aftereffects of the bench’s role in the Game 6 win in the Rockets series was still being felt.
“Game 6 helped confident wise as well,” Green said. “Guys who hadn’t really played the entire playoffs. To have that Game 6 that they had against Houston boded well for us tonight.”
Steph Curry said the bench play reflected the twists and turns of lengthy NBA playoff runs.
“That’s the beauty of the playoffs, every series is different,” Curry said. “When you have the capability to expand the bench and fill minutes with guys that obviously are capable, can help us on the floor at both ends. You see the confidence they play with regards of the situation — that’s contagious for sure. The Houston series took a certain style and dynamic the first 5 games. Game 6 we had (use the bench) with K (Durant) going out — fill those 40 minutes with a multitude of guys.”
“We talk about it a lot in terms of how prepared they stay. Quinn, Zoe (Alfonzo McKinnie), JB (Bell), Jonas as well. They put the work in and they are not afraid of the moment.”