OAKLAND, Calif. — Playoff JaVale is officially a thing.
On Sunday, our James Herbert wrote about JaVale McGee’s contributions during the
Golden State Warriors
‘ Game 1 win over the
Portland Trail Blazers
, but as Herbert noted, “McGee didn’t win Golden State” the game. That honor belonged to
On Wednesday, McGee won Golden State the game — along with the Warriors’ stifling defense, which limited the Blazers to 33.3 percent shooting.
In a 110-81 blowout, in which
combined to shoot 12-of-35, McGee scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting. He blocked four shots and grabbed five boards. And he was on the court for only 13 minutes.
In the process, McGee tied a Warriors’ playoff record for the most made shots without a miss. He outscored
(12 points) and C.J. McCollum (11 points). Both Portland guards played 30 minutes.
The Blazers just couldn’t stop him. McGee immediately made an impact off the bench. In his first short stint during the opening quarter, McGee almost immediately threw down a lob.
Minutes later, McGee scored on another lob out of a timeout.
Seconds later, McGee finished his third lob, this one from Curry. All of that transpired in three minutes. McGee checked out of the game shortly after.
After the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts explained why the Warriors’ lobs are so difficult to defend. Spoiler: Curry and Thompson’s ability to make 3s is a significant factor.
“It’s a challenge because when you have a guy like Steph or Klay coming off, you’ve got to get up and guard them and not let the big get behind you if you’re going to drop on them,” Stotts said. “They do that very well.”
Those successful lobs are even more impressive considering everybody knows they’re coming.
“It’s kind of like a bail out,” Green said. “You get it in trouble, and he goes to the rim and goes to get it.”
But McGee’s impact went beyond throwing down lobs. His rim protection was excellent and so was his ability to defend the pick and roll. And then there was the time he chucked the ball off Lillard’s face to give the Warriors possession.
After the Blazers cut the Warriors’ lead from 16 points to one point in the second quarter, Steve Kerr went back to McGee again.
drilled a 3 to push the lead back to four and then McGee took over.
On the next possession, he converted a three-point play. Then, he made a put back. Then, he guided/tipped in a lob. He was everywhere. At halftime, McGee was the Warriors’ leading scorer with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting despite being on the court for only eight minutes.
He wasn’t the only Warriors’ big to contribute in a huge way.
, and McGee combined for 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting in the first half. The Blazers had no answer for them. As a result, they trailed by nine points despite their great start to the second quarter.
The third quarter, in which the Warriors expanded their lead to 25 points, was less about McGee and more about the Warriors’ defense. The Warriors limited the Blazers to 12 points over the course of 12 minutes.
McGee still managed to utilize an effective post move to make his seventh and final field goal. He was spotted flying all over the court contesting 3s. With the game out of range, he didn’t play in the fourth. The Blazers pulled their starters with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
And so, the Warriors — a team missing
— won a playoff game in three quarters. They’re now up 2-0 in the series.
It’s just not fair. The Warriors’ weakness was supposed to be their bigs after they parted ways with
this summer. Instead, their bigs led them to a 29-point playoff win. Collectively, McGee, Pachulia, and West scored 33 points on 15-of-20 shooting.
If it wasn’t already clear, the Blazers desperately need
to return for Game 3. The Warriors can win without Durant. The Blazers can’t win without Nurkic. They couldn’t do it in Game 1, when Lillard and McCollum combined for 75 points. And they couldn’t do it in Game 2, when Curry and Thompson combined for just 35.
As Kerr noted after the game, the Blazers are forced to play smaller lineups without Nurkic. That’s an issue for them when McGee is on the court.
The only problem is that it’s already too late for the Blazers. Even with Nurkic on the floor, the Blazers likely won’t be able to beat the Warriors four times in five games. Barring a miracle, the Blazers are done.
So, let’s focus on the bigger picture for a second: With Playoff McGee now a thing, it’s not crazy to ponder if he should be getting more minutes than the 11.5 minutes he’s averaged in the first two games.
It’s not a crazy question, but the answer is clear: The Warriors should keep McGee’s minutes right where they’re at. He shouldn’t supplant Pachulia as the starter. He shouldn’t be racking up 20 or so minutes a game. The entire reason McGee is able to inject energy into the Warriors and play like a man possessed is because he exclusively sees the floor in short stints.
“With Steve, I know exactly how many minutes I’m going to get and when I’m going in,” McGee said Tuesday. “So, I’m prepared — there’s no random minutes out there. It’s easy for me to just say, ‘I’m going to use these five minutes and exhaust myself until no return, because I’m coming out at the second quarter.'”
The Warriors should keep it that way. McGee obviously isn’t a flawless player. Nobody is going to argue that. If McGee were to see the court in longer stretches, his flaws would likely be exposed — especially when facing higher quality players like Nurkic. By limiting his minutes, the Warriors are able to maximize his energy (just listen to the Oracle crowd whenever he checks in) while also limiting the chances he has to make critical mistakes.
That’s why he’s valuable to a super team.
“When he can electrify the crowd with a huge block and the alley-oop dunks and things like that, it’s just a different dynamic that we love to have,” Curry said.
The Warriors and McGee have a perfect thing going right now. They shouldn’t mess it up by getting greedy. McGee wasn’t even supposed to make the roster back in the autumn. Now he’s leading the best team on the planet to playoff wins.
Say it with me: Playoff JaVale is officially a thing.