What Warriors' bench performance in big games means for NBA playoffs

What Warriors' bench performance in big games means for NBA playoffs

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors bench does not deserve all the flak it has been getting lately. 

Following the Warriors' big win over the Houston Rockets in which the bench played a major role, I wanted to look back at the three impressive wins Golden State has had in the last two weeks, and see how the bench performed.

Let's begin on March 2nd, when the Warriors were scuffling on a east coast road trip. They had lost two in a row to mediocre Eastern Conference teams, and were heading to a tough environment against the Philadelphia 76ers. To make matters worse for the Dubs, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney were not available (though Joel Embiid also did not play).

So how did the depth of the Warriors respond when thrust into a bigger role? Well, actually very admirably.

The bench combined to make 9-of-15 shots from the field, including 6-of-9 from deep. Damion Lee stepped up and had an impressive game, hitting 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Andre Iguodala did Iguodala things, finishing with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks. The bench stepped up when needed, and helped propel the Warriors to an important victory. 

The Warriors followed the Philadelphia victory with a rather uninspiring home loss to the Boston Celtics, raising question marks yet again of the focus and execution of the team. So on March 8th, it appeared as if the Dubs were in need of another statement game, this time against the Denver Nuggets, their rivals for the top seed in the Western Conference.

This time around, the Warriors had their full compliment of starters, so the bench played in their routine rotations. And again, in a big game full of intrigue, they answered the call. The bench hit 10-of-16 shots, led by Kevon Looney. He finished with nine points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, to go with seven rebounds. Iguodala, as expected, had another effective performance, finishing with seven points, two rebounds, two assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Like the Warriors starters, the bench played with great focus and energy, dominating Denverin a 17-point victory.

That brings us to Wednesday night in Houston. After another  uninspiring and embarrassing home loss, this time to the Phoenix Suns, the Warriors went to Houston in search of their identity. Like the game in Philadelphia, the Warriors were without one of their biggest stars, as Kevin Durant missed the game with an ankle injury.

The Rockets were also the hottest team in basketball, on the verge of making the Warriors look over their shoulder in the West standings. With all eyes on the Warriors' bench, the reserves rose to the occasion.

The bench made 9-of-17 shots, and played some high-energy defense. The effort attacking the glass on the offensive end led to seven of the Warriors' 12 offensive rebounds, with Looney securing five himself.

Quinn Cook, thrust into a role in the second unit that needed some floor spacing, had a particularly good game. Cook drained all three of his shots, and all in pretty big moments of the game. Alfonzo McKinnie hit a three, making a shot from deep for the third consecutive game for the first time since early November. 

[RELATED: Steph turns 31, reveals why 'I try to protect my joy']

To put it simply, when the final plus-minus totals were calculated after the game, the starters combined for a minus-8 and the bench was a plus-18.

Like the Warriors as a whole, the bench performs better under pressure and when high-level focus and execution is required of them. With the playoffs coming around the corner, that is great news for a Warriors team that needs to start living up to the mantra, "Strength in Numbers."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned from Warriors' tough loss to Spurs

Warriors takeaways: What we learned from Warriors' tough loss to Spurs


SAN ANTONIO - Following back-to-back solid performances against Houston and Oklahoma City, the Warriors couldn't find their shot in a 111-105 loss to the Spurs on Monday night. 

Despite a late run to get within four points with two minutes left, a late flurry from DeMar DeRozan sealed the win for San Antonio. 

The loss snaps a two-game winning streak, and with a road game against Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, makes the reality of a 2-2 trip all the more possible

Here are three takeaways from the game. 

No 'Splash' from the Brothers

In a game that begged for offense, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had a hard time providing it. 

Curry finished with 25 points on 9-of-25 from the field, missing a number of shots down the stretch that could have kept the Warriors in the game.

[WATCH: Curry banks in buzzer-beater]

Meanwhile, Thompson, who came into Monday night rolling, made just five of his 18 shots on the night. 

Entering Monday evening, Thompson had been averaging 30 points on 50 percent from the field over his last four games. A good shooting performance from Klay would have helped the Warriors' cause. 

Andrew Bogut's return

After being summoned due to DeMarcus Cousins' sore right ankle, Bogut started his second tour of duty in Golden State in an appropriate fashion, committing an offensive foul after setting an illegal screen to free up Curry. 

Following the foul, Bogut gave the Warriors solid play, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and a steal in 19 minutes. 

The offense seemed to flow well when Bogut was on the floor, giving a glimpse of what the Warriors can expect if Bogut can recapture his play from his previous tenure in the Bay Area. 

Warriors couldn't stop fouling

The Warriors needed to be disciplined on Monday, but they committed 20 fouls on the night, including a momentum-stopping foul from Kevin Durant on Marco Belinelli in the fourth quarter that led to a four-point play. 

For a team that's trying to turn the tide on a subpar second half of the season, unnecessary fouls aren't conducive to that goal.

Watch Andrew Bogut make return to Warriors and make immediate impact

Watch Andrew Bogut make return to Warriors and make immediate impact

Who doesn’t love some nostalgia?

Andrew Bogut officially is back on the Dubs and his return was felt instantly … kind of

Bogut, who hasn't played for the Warriors since 2016, got the last-minute start with Boogie Cousins on the shelf for Monday night’s game vs. San Antonio.

He won the tip and instantly got charged for an illegal screen (in typical Bogut fashion).

About a minute later, Bogut *actually* made an impact with a nice alley-oop from Steph.

And again …

[RELATED: Bogut delivers funny sound bites before Warriors debut]

Ahh, just like the old days.