OAKLAND -- The people’s choice was also the choice of the coaching staff Sunday and, in the end, there was joy in the world of the Warriors.
JaVale McGee, whose vocally supportive cheering section at Oracle Arena may be second only to that of Stephen Curry, made his first career start in an NBA Finals game Sunday and brought exactly what the Warriors needed in a 122-103 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 2 of The Finals.
Given his spare recent usage, this was an entirely different experience for McGee. He played all of three minutes in the seven-game Western Conference Finals against the Rockets and played only six in Game 1 against Cleveland. He played 18 minutes in the five-game conference semifinals series against New Orleans.
McGee went from garbage time to no time to big time on the league’s biggest stage.
“It’s definitely different,” McGee said. “It’s amazing. It’s a lot of fun, if anything. It’s a lot of fun. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in basketball.”
Though he finished with 12 points, on 6-of-6 shooting, over 18 minutes, while also grabbing a couple rebounds, his biggest contribution may have been providing a jolt of energy through the Warriors and the arena.
“The pace that he brings and the energy that he brings is important for us,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He helped us get off to a good start.”
Kerr turned to McGee for several reasons. For one, the Warriors were outrebounded 53-38 in Game 1, and McGee does a good job of keeping big men off the glass. For two, the Warriors wanted a scoring threat in the paint, and McGee can give them that. For three, the Warriors have had to overcome several lackluster starts, and McGee is an instant shot of adrenaline.
“I thought he did a great job,” Kerr said.
McGee wasted no time, throwing down two dunks in the first 42 seconds, to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead they never lost.
It’s one thing to play with his fellow reserves, quite another to take the floor with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Curry.
“It’s a lot different, just because everyone isn’t focused on you so much,” he said. “They are focused on Draymond [Green] getting people open and assisting everybody. They are focused on Klay, KD and Steph scoring. So it makes it a lot easier on me.”
McGee learned on Saturday that he would be starting, and he embraced it.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised,” he said. “I was honored.”
|Game 1||Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)|
|Game 2||Warriors 122, Cavs 103|
|Game 3||Cleveland -- Wednesday, June 6 at 6pm|
|Game 4||Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm|
|Game 5||Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm|
|Game 6||Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm|
|Game 7||Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm|