Warriors advance to Western Conference finals by shirking famed small-ball and deciding to get big

 Warriors advance to Western Conference finals by shirking famed small-ball and deciding to get big

SAN FRANCISCO -Mike Brown is anxious to watch Kevon Looney, one of his soldiers the past six seasons who has done everything asked of him with little or no fun in the Golden State Warriors franchise full of highlight and glory. Looney, who rarely plays stretches longer than six or seven minutes, headed for his 17th consecutive minute on the floor, heading into a career-long 35 for the game.

“I keep watching him because after the first five [minutes] he looks like he’s going to die. Then the next two, he looks even worse, ”said Brown, the Warriors’ acting head coach. “Then every minute after that, I just say,‘ Loon, hold on. Loon, huwat. ‘ “

Looney not only survived, but improved, in Friday night’s final quarter in a 110-96 Game 6 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and he symbolized the theme of the game as he bounced back the Warriors to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2019. .

Before the final buzzer, Brown walked in line with fellow assistant coaches on the sideline. He hugged Kenny Atkinson. He hugged Bruce Fraser. He hugged Chris DeMarco.

Serving as head coach without Steve Kerr due to health and safety protocols, Brown-recently named as the next head coach of the Sacramento Kings-was caught in the crosshair of the NBA Twitterati just 48 hours ago, when the Warriors received. a terrifying Game 5 drub in the hands of the Grizzlies that we rarely see in the NBA playoffs.

By the end of Game 6, however, the Warriors had won against the pathetic, young, fearless, relentless Grizzlies, and a significant change from Brown, the coaching staff, and even the players, a great reason why.

Most of the talk during and immediately after the Warriors ’first-round win against the Denver Nuggets was the novel version of the popular Warriors small-ball lineup. Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green seem unbeatable in their brief association, which is why many suggest the unit should start the rest of the playoffs, or at least get bigger. fraction of minutes.

But against the Grizzlies, the lineup failed. Once again. When Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant was injured in Game 3 and Memphis started man-mountain Steven Adams in Games 4 and 5, the Warriors ’offense seemed as futile as the rest of the season. The small ball lineup that would have dominated the defenses and raised Golden State’s championship hopes amassed a small 94.5 points per 100 possessions in 25 minutes during the series.

“When Ja came down, we really noticed after [Game 5]we have to adjust like we’re starting a different series, “Green said.” Because that’s a different team we’ve played against the last three games. “

So the Warriors have a decision to make for Game 6. Will we shrink and hope to take advantage of Adams ’lack of foot speed, or are we trying to match their size and grow? A few minutes before the tipoff, the start lines were announced, and Looney was selected to fight Adams.

It was a collective decision stemming from a conversation that began at the end of the horrific Memphis explosion on Wednesday. Brown tells this to Curry and Green, who both agree that Looney is the guy they want next to them. Not only does he carry size and physique, but he’s also one of the core players left in the Warriors ’Finals races. Kerr, who would be the biggest Looney fan in the world besides his family, finally signed the decision.

“When you look at the last eight quarters prior to this game, we got dominated for seven of them,” Green said of the choice to start Looney in Game 6. “We just know we need to come out and establish an inside presence to start the game, and don’t worry about our scoring. … They made it clear that they were going to lose us, and they did it well. Putting Loon back in the starting lineup changed that. “

For the third straight game, the Warriors ’offense struggled all night. Thompson had a number of improvements to a team-high 30 points, but Curry and Poole didn’t throw the ball into the sea for the better part of the first three quarters. Aside from the shooting struggles, the Warriors fell short of their famous habit of throwing the ball to the other team or out of bounds, leading to 16 turnovers in the first three quarters.

That’s how they survive, especially when Grizzlies winger Dillon Brooks – the public enemy No. 1 at Chase Center – is the best game of his life? The Warriors became big.

Looney was a threat from the jump, collecting 11 rebounds in just the first quarter and finishing with a silly 22 boards on the night, half of it from the offensive glass. He also helped eliminate Adams, who had only one offensive rebound for the game. The Warriors beat the Grizzlies by paint points, an area where Memphis dominated the entire season.

Looney wasn’t the only one to receive the message, though. Green had 15 rebounds. Wiggins has 11. Thompson has eight. Curry pulled in seven. That said, the Warriors amassed a whopping 70 rebounds, including 25 on the offensive glass. For a game that was ugly offensively most nights, the Warriors ’strength and determination on defense and on the boards pushed them to the conference finals.

“When we win the rebound game and the possession game, we give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Brown said. “That’s great against a team that big and that athleticism.”

Brown is right. Eventually, the offense came in the form of 11 points in the fourth quarter from Curry and 10 more from Wiggins. Thompson’s eighth 3-pointer with just under three minutes left sealed the game, and the series.

We could argue all day if what the Warriors have shown so far in the playoffs sees them worthy of a real title fight, but they showed something important in the championship formula in a closeout game on Friday at night: adaptability. The more cards a coach has to play – whether it’s Kerr or Brown – the more likely they are to have the answer to any problems they encounter. And needless to say, neither the Phoenix Suns nor the Dallas Mavericks will present a lot of problems.

Planning comes later, though. Thompson and Curry said they will watch Game 7 on Sunday between the Suns and Mavericks, as NBA fans and to feel their next opponent. Meanwhile, they will celebrate the Western Conference finals berth which was once a ritual with a renewed sense of gratitude.

“It’s unbelievable, knowing what we’ve been through these last two years – six of the last eight we’ve had a chance to play for the Finals,” Curry said Friday night. “It’s a pretty cool vibe when you know it as a group, because we haven’t done it in this group together. Definitely special, it doesn’t really matter. Understand, it’s all about. “

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