How Warriors bench players raised their game with Kevin Durant out

How Warriors bench players raised their game with Kevin Durant out

The Warriors were able to finish off Houston and sweep the Blazers without Kevin Durant. That does not mean the team does not need Durant.

In fact, it does not mean that at all. What it does mean, however, is that the Warriors stepped up in a time of desperation, and have given their superstar a chance to return and help them compete for a title against one of the two powerhouses in the East.

So which Warriors players took their game up a notch to send them to the Finals? We all know what Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have done for the team, but what about the bench?

Let's take a dive into some of the players and their numbers behind "Strength in Numbers"...

Shaun Livingston

No one on the Warriors saw a more dramatic turnaround of their playoff productivity more than Shaun Livingston. In the first 11 games of the playoffs before the Warriors lost Durant to injury, Livingston averaged 13 minutes per game, scoring 2.6 points on a poor 34 percent from the field.

While he was on the court, the team was a -39 in point differential. It seemed like age and injuries finally had caught up with him, and the man that the Warriors had called upon to be Mr. Reliable throughout their dynasty quickly faded away.

But with the loss of Durant, Livingston's game rose from the ashes back to a level the team needed so desperately. Over the last five games, Shaun has converted 12 of his 16 field goal attempts and has been a +24 while on the court. He is hitting timely buckets and providing steady leadership that is necessary to relax the Warriors' nerves when in a tightly contested match.

Livingston has turned back the clock to be the player the Warriors have come to know and need over the last five seasons, and it could not have come at a better time. 

Kevon Looney

I feel like I have written the same things about Looney all season. He is reliable, patient, productive, steady, consistent etc. But during the playoffs, Looney has taken his game to another level to the point in which Steve Kerr called him a "foundational piece" of the franchise.

Through 16 games this postseason, Looney is shooting an incredible 73 percent from the field and playing his typical stout defense. Since Durant's absence, Looney has upped his game even more. Over the last five games, Kevon is averaging 11 points on 77 percent shooting.

In the close-out game against the Blazers, Looney collected a career-high 14 rebounds to go with his 12 points. Everyone has found ways to explain Looney's game as subtle yet effective, and under-the-radar. But it is time to call the 22 year-old what he is, a very good basketball player who is integral to the success of the Warriors.

[RELATED: Looney not take Finals appearance for granted]

Jordan Bell

The best way to describe Bell's rise is to simply explain that for most of the playoffs he was not in the rotation, and for the close out game of the Western Conference Finals, he started. If that does not portray the emergence of Bell, then maybe this well: the first 11 games of the playoffs, Bell averaged 2.6 minutes and under one point per game. In the last five games, Jordan has played 13 minutes and scored 6 points per contest.

With the depth of the team taxed and thin, Bell was called upon to bring energy and quickness to the front court, and he responded immediately. He is the best option off the bench when the Warriors need a big man that can help the team in transition with rim running.

With Durant and DeMarcus Cousins possibly returning for the Finals, it is unclear if Bell will have a major role anymore. But Kerr knows that Bell is ready if called upon, and that is a luxury this time of year.

[RELATED: Draymond's pep talk helps Bell]

Alfonzo McKinnie and Quinn Cook

Sometimes it takes a qualitative approach rather than quantitative when explaining bench players' worth, and that is the case with McKinnie and Cook. While their numbers have marginally increased and improved over the last five games, their overall impact has been obvious when watching the game.

Take the close-out game against Portland for example. McKinnie started in place of an injured Iguodala, and immediately made the first bucket of the game, a corner three-pointer. From there, Zo scored 12 points and collected two offensive rebounds in overtime, including an important one that he put back in the hoop to give the Warriors a one-point lead.

Meanwhile, Quinn Cook was on the court for big minutes in the fourth quarter, providing spacing and play making for the team as they completed their come back. Cook was a team best +14 while on the court, scoring four points. Like Bell, it is yet to be seen how big of a role McKinnie and Cook will have in the Finals, but their impacts have been felt in getting the team there.

NBA rumors: Klay Thompson, Warriors will meet at outset of free agency

NBA rumors: Klay Thompson, Warriors will meet at outset of free agency

The Warriors introduced their three 2019 NBA Draft picks on Monday afternoon.

At the end of the press conference, Warriors GM Bob Myers answered "yes" when asked if he has formal plans to sit down with Klay Thompson to discuss the future.

We learned some more details on Wednesday afternoon, courtesy Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Warriors and free-agent All-Star Klay Thompson will meet in L.A. this week at the outset of free agency, league sources said. Should the Warriors enter the meeting with the five-year, $190 million maximum contract, both sides expect a quick agreement, according to sources.

Free agency officially opens on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.

As ESPN's Zach Lowe said on Tuesday: "That max offer hasn't been communicated to [Klay] that it's for sure coming ... just because they haven't communicated that the max is coming doesn't mean it's not coming. In fact, I would be shocked -- given what he has meant to their organzation -- if it didn't come."

And as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said: "You can offer your own free agent a deal at any point here. That 5-year, $190 million max offer -- if it's not there for Klay Thompson on Sunday at 6:01 p.m. Eastern, the Warriors can then expect him to go out and take a meeting, meetings."

The biggest contract the five-time All-Star can get with any other franchise is about $141 million over four seasons.

[RELATEDWhy Iguodala believes KD, Klay will re-sign with Warriors]

Klay -- who is expected to undergo surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee at some point this week -- will turn 30 years old on Feb. 8.

He is expected to miss a large portion (if not all) of next season.

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr gives update on assistant Ron Adams' job status

Warriors coach Steve Kerr gives update on assistant Ron Adams' job status

Last weekend, the Lakers received permission to speak with Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams about a potential role with the organization.

Has the 71-year-old told Golden State coach Steve Kerr that he will be back with the Dubs next season?

"Basically," Kerr told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on Wednesday. "We talked about the LA situation. I called him to tell him that they had asked permission and that we would grant it.

"And so I don't know if they've spoken with him yet, and I don't know what his final answer would be. I don't even know what they would be offering him.

"But my feeling is that Ron will want to come back, and we want him back. So we'll see how it all shakes out."

Adams joined Kerr's coaching staff in 2014 and is widely considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NBA.

"I will never ever deny anybody permission to speak with one of my assistants," Kerr explained to The Athletic. "I don't understand that philosophy. If somebody comes along with an offer that one of my assistants wants to take, then I'm gonna let him go.

"Why would I keep them from going after something that they believe in? And if they would rather be somewhere else, I'm not gonna stop them from going."

After beginning his coaching career at Fresno Pacific College, Adams has been in the NBA since 1992. He's worked for the Spurs, 76ers, Bucks, Bulls, Thunder, Celtics and Warriors.

[RELATEDWillie Green leaving Warriors for job with Suns]

The Fresno Pacific graduate is lauded for his defensive mind.

"Ron's a huge part of our staff, and we've grown very close," Kerr said. "Beyond basketball, I look forward to seeing Ron every day and just talking about life.

"I know he's very happy living in the Bay, so I hope that he's here for many years."

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