Warriors

Warriors

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.