Got Bench? The Warriors Do
Photo courtesy of The Chronicle
After Saturday night’s win in convincing fashion, the Golden Sate Warriors are now just one win away from their first NBA Finals since the 1974-75 season. With all eyes focused on MVP Stephen Curry, the Golden State bench goes unnoticed at times. However, it is with their bench, where the Warriors hold their biggest advantage both in this series and in their inevitable meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors bench rotation consists of Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Andre Igoudala, and Festus Ezeli. With this group of players, the Warriors have size, length and quickness, which is why, defensively, they are stellar. Unlike the starters however, the Warriors’ bench does not shoot the three very well and must instead rely on mid range jump shots and points in the paint.
Shaun Livingston comes in as back up point guard to give Curry his usual rest at the end of the first quarter. With Livingston in the game the Warriors have essentially, a six foot seven point guard who can take his undersized defender down low and finish around the basket. After coming off of two major knee procedures, Livingston has shown toughness and perseverance, and is one of the major keys to the success of the Warriors team.
Another key cog on this Golden State Warriors bench is Andre Igoudala. Igoudala, a former all-star and all defensive first team member, provides help on both the offensive and defensive end. Igoudala scores most of his points getting out in transition, usually off of opponents turnovers. However it is at the defensive end where the Warriors value him most, as he can guard positions one through three as well as be an excellent help defender. For the Warriors to advance to the NBA Finals and ultimately come up victorious, Igoudala must stick to being the terrific defender he is while also providing some scoring off the bench.
The other guard who comes off of the Warriors bench is Leandro Barbosa. As a former sixth man of the year, Barbosa is the only true three-point shooter on the Warriors bench. The Brazilian Blur, as they call him, provides energy and defensive toughness for this Warriors squad. Although he shot almost 40 percent from the three-point line this season, Barbosa scores most of his points off of drives and also in transition. The importance of Barbosa cannot be questioned as he allows rest for the Splash Brothers without a big drop in production, and is essential to this Warriors long playoff run.
Next is Festus Ezeli, the six foot eleven center out of Nigeria. The defensive minded Ezeli is coming off of a year where he was forced to miss a lot of time due to surgery to repair his torn ACL. On the court however, Ezeli is the defensive anchor and rim protector that holds this defense together. Although not giving much on the offensive end, Ezeli is a good rebounder and offers the Warriors chances for extra possessions via offensive rebounds. In order for the Warriors to push past this beaten down rockets team and be successful in the finals, they will need Ezeli to stay within his game and hold their second unit together from a defensive standpoint.
With no team ever coming back from a three to zero series deficit, odds are that the Golden State Warriors are going to reach their first NBA Finals in almost forty years. The NBA finals will be a tough task for this Warriors team and first year head coach Steve Kerr. With the Warriors posting the best offense in the league complimented by a top three defense they should feel fairly confident in themselves that they can be crowned champions. Although they have excellent starters, it is when the bench is on where the Warriors can separate themselves from their opponents. With such a deep and experienced roster, this Warriors team will go as far as their bench will take them.