By Frank McLean
Back in the days when I covered hockey the late Pat Burns used to always tell us in the media that you “have to be beware of the wounded bear”, whenever the Maple Leafs were going to play a top level opponent who were not playing up to their potential.
The Golden State Warriors looked like that wounded bear in game one of the this year’s NBA Finals and you can add the first half of game two as well. The Warriors did not look like the team that have won three of the last four championships.
Down 59-54 at halftime the Warriors came out and looked like the team we have seen for the last five years. Playing basketball like they were on the uppers, playing their usual fast pace game pushing the ball up-court never letting the shot clock get down below 15-seconds and before you knew it they opened the third quarter on an 18-zero run leading 73-59. The Raptors didn’t know what hit them.
They Warriors hang on to win 109-104 to tie series at one game apiece.
“It felt like we should have been down by more than five”, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “For the first quarter and a half we really had a tough time scoring. So the last whatever it was, four, five, six minutes, the game loosened up and we finally broke free and started getting some buckets. We ended up with 34-assists, which is more like our team”.
Here’s how the Warriors finished off the game. They had those 34-assists on 38-made field goals in 82-attempts. In the first half they were 16-of-40 from the field on 12-assists but most of the good shots came in the last three minutes of the half.
The Warriors were being schooled in the paint in the first half being outscored 28-12, but in the second half the Warriors dominated the paint by a 24-16 margin.
“I thought just staying in the game at the end of the second quarter was also very important”, Kerr said about the 18-zip run. ”I think we were down 12- and the place was going nuts, we couldn’t score, and Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) both got loose and the game loosened up a little bit and we scored. We weren’t exactly making stops, but we cut the lead to five and could kind of breathe at halftime”.
“I think our guys felt a renewed life at the point and came out and just had a great run to take control of the game, and we were able to finish it out from there”, Kerr added.
Pretty much that’s how the Warriors have won games over the last five years, taking control of a game for a quarter and pretty much making it hard for the opposition to catch up.
Now as we head to game three at the always tough Oracle Arena in Oakland there is a good news and bad news facing the Warriors.
The good news was DeMarcus Cousins coming back from being on the shelf for six weeks with a quad injury.
Kerr was hoping to 20-minutes out of him but Cousins went out and played almost-28 with 11-points and 10-rebounds. But the physicality that he brought to the floor on the defensive side of things harassing Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry was an aspect of the game that was missing in game one.
But, and there always is a but, the injury bug hit the Warriors just a little bit.
First Klay Thompson pulled his hamstring which Kerr confirmed in his post game comments as well as Kevon Looney injuring a shoulder. Andre Iguodala went down hard on the floor with some sort of nagging leg injury which could or could not be factor from here on out.
There was also speculation from those in the media that cover the Warriors on a daily basis that Kevin Durant could be back for game three, BUT we will have to wait for Wednesday to see if that comes to be.
The Warriors got the split that you need on the road when you don’t have home court advantage in a post season series.
They woke up in the second half of game two and the question now is will they stay awake and be the Warriors of old or, like the wounded bear, go back into the cave and hibernate.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has been covering the Raptors in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96.