With the Warriors rolling out the same starters in 19 of their first 20 games, opponents know what’s coming, most notably Stephen Curry’s offense, Draymond Green’s defense, the fresh jolt of Jordan Poole’s offense and the intensified Andrew Wiggins.
Such consistency makes it easy for opposing coaching staffs to draw up plans that may or may not succeed.
What’s much harder, if not impossible, is for those teams to figure out which Golden State bench dawg will bring the biggest bite to the fight.
The answer on Sunday was Otto Porter Jr., who played his most complete game as a Warrior.
Porter played a season-high 26 minutes, scoring a season-high 18 points, grabbing a team- and season-high 10 rebounds and finishing a team-best plus-21 in a 105-90 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
OPJ played some at forward but mostly at center, which probably is not something the Clippers saw coming from the 6-foot-8 veteran wing. That surprise wrinkle likely played a part in Los Angeles committing 25 turnovers, off which the Warriors scored 31 points.
“Out of our 25 turnovers, probably 13 or 14 was just bad turnovers,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters in LA. “We just got to do a better job on our decision-making. Maybe I got to put our guys in different positions, you know, I’m not sure.”
New wrinkles are new because you’ve never seen them before, and unfamiliarity is the surest path to disruption. Porter has played a fraction of his minutes at center. Yet there he was, entering the midway through the first quarter and replacing none other than starting big man Kevon Looney, played only seven minutes over the final three quarters. OPJ played 20.
In the second and fourth quarters, where most of Porter’s playing time were spent, the Warriors outscored the Clippers 54-40. In the first and third, the edge was 51-50.
Which speaks to the luxuries this roster affords coach Steve Kerr. He can look down his bench and call for the person who best fills the need of the moment. No matter what, there’s always somebody.
With the Warriors struggling to score early while also being clobbered on the glass, that happened to be Porter, whose statistics reveal him as the team’s best rebounding-scoring threat – bench or starter.
And he responded with a double-double, the first by a Warriors reserve since Nemanja Bjelica attacked the Lakers for 15 and 11 on opening night.
That was Beli’s night. This was Porter’s night. It was Juan Toscano-Anderson’s night on Wednesday, and he was the essential ingredient in a 116-96 over the 76ers at Chase Center – six days after he was plus-21 as the pivotal factor in a win at Cleveland.
Gary Payton II? Pick a night. His four steals on Sunday ties his season-high first set in a Nov. 7 win over the Rockets. The defensive demon was plus-18 in the win at Detroit nine days ago, plus-14 in a win at Brooklyn three days before that and plus-16 in a Nov. 12 home victory over the Bulls.
Back on Oct. 26, when the Warriors were taking the Oklahoma City Thunder for granted, it was Damion Lee’s in 20 points in 26 minutes that led the comeback in a 106-98 victory.
Most every night, in some way, it’s Andre Iguodala who can come in and wreck the best-laid plans of the opponent.
The Warriors have a very good bench. Whether it’s the best in the NBA can be debated. But no bench has a better assortment of dawgs whose bites can be lethal.