On Splash Brothers’ off night, Warriors get major lift from bench
OAKLAND — In seven games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Shaun Livingston made a total of 11 field goals. On Thursday, in the Golden State Warriors’ convincing 104-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he made eight, on his way to a season-high 20 points.
He was just one of several Warriors bench players that carried the day. Their slogan throughout a history-making season has been “Strength in Numbers,” and no game more clearly typified that mentality than this one. The unanimous MVP, Stephen Curry, and the Western Conference Finals hero, Klay Thompson, combined to score 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting, which should have been a sign of disaster against the team that took the Warriors to six games last season despite being shorthanded.
But the Warriors’ bench stepped up — in addition to Livingston’s 20, Andre Iguodala scored 12 points and Leandro Barbosa had 11. Strength in numbers.
“That’s as close to a definition as you can get tonight,” Iguodala said after the game. “With the way Shaun Livingston played, the way Leandro Barbosa played, the way Anderson Varejao played. Festus (Ezeli) came in and, it may not have seemed like it because his minutes were lower, but guys communicate, he had key rebounds. This is The Finals -- every possession really matters. I felt like everyone who came off the bench tonight treated every possession like it could be their last. When you treat the game like that and respect it, good things tend to happen.”
It’s not common for both of the Splash Brothers to be cold on the same night. The timing for this performance from their stars was not ideal, and their bench had never been tested in this way.
“I missed some shots and didn’t get a rhythm, but the way that they defended, we’ll be able to find some adjustments for Game 2,” Curry said. “Not worried about that. Just really proud of the way everybody contributed. You don’t win championships without the entire squad coming in and making an impact on games. And the way, obviously, Shaun came in, was so composed, got to his spot, had that confidence to knock them down. Andre the same way. L.B. That’s why we’re here, everybody having an impact on our team in the game.”
In all, the Warriors’ bench outscored the Cavs’ reserves 45-10. The surprise of the night, in addition to Livingston, was the 33-year-old Barbosa, whose hot shooting in the second quarter ignited the Warriors.
“I thought L.B. was great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s still very fast, maybe not as fast as he was five years ago, but he’s still a guy who loves to get up-and-down the floor. He came in and gave us a huge lift. Got a couple lay-ups to go early, tough lay-ups, and then made that three in the corner. Just really played an excellent game, (11) points in 11 1/2 minutes. Pretty good production.”
But the hero of the night was Livingston, the most unsung glue guy on this team. Iguodala was the unexpected Finals MVP last year, and if things continue the way they have gone so far, Livingston might take that mantle this time around.
“Shaun’s a guy who has battled through much more than having to step up in a game,” Draymond Green said. “He’s been from the top to the bottom and back. And when you go through so much in life and his career, I mean, it makes stepping up in the game easy. Obviously, he’s a competitor. One thing about Shaun is he’s never going to get outside of who he is. He’s going to do what he does, and he’s going to get to his spots and he’s going to raise up and knock shots down. And he’s a very smart player, so he knows how to get behind defense and find openings. And all that stuff helps his team out, and him stepping up the way he did tonight was huge for us. Along with the rest of the bench as well. Everybody who stepped on that floor was big tonight, and Shaun was a key part of that.”