Gary Payton II
NBA legend Gary Payton wasn’t too pleased about his son’s DNP in Game 1. “I don’t know what happened,” the elder Payton told Rich Eisen. “That’s on the coaching staff and the organization of Golden State. I don’t know. Suit him up and you don’t play him, I don’t know.”
GPII got the minutes his father wanted in Game 2 and made the most of it. He was the difference-maker for the Warriors; although he only tallied seven points, the energy he brought gave his team a much-needed shot in the arm during the nip-and-tuck first half.
I think Steve Kerr stumbled upon his best lineup at the close of the first half (GPII, Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green). GPII is a decent enough three-point shooter (35.8% during the regular season), particularly on the corners, that Boston still has to respect him. But it’s his ability to disrupt one of Boston’s two-headed monster that makes him vital to the Warriors’ success the rest of the way. Him and Wiggins can take turns guarding Tatum and Brown late in games, and the Dubs wouldn’t have to worry about someone getting targeted on pick-and-rolls or missing a rotation.
The Warriors’ starters
The Warriors blitzed the Celtics 35-14 in the third quarter. Chef Curry was cooking in the third, as he matched Boston’s entire team output for the period. If you add Game 1, Golden State is now plus-36 in third quarters through the first two games. This is a major concern for Boston moving forward because it means that the Warriors’ starters are outplaying the Celtics’ starters (Tatum was minus-36 in Game 2). Boston’s comeback win in Game 1 happened because Kerr left Curry and Wiggins on the bench for too long to start the fourth. The odds of Kerr making the same mistake again are slim.
The Warriors won Game 2 during the pivotal 12-minute stretch that spanned the end of the second and start of the third quarters. GPII came on with 6:57 left in the second quarter with the Warriors trailing 35-40. The starters plus GPII took Boston’s best shot late in the first half and went into the break with a two-point lead despite the C’s hot start. Thompson’s basket at the 8:15 mark of the third made it a ten-point game and the Celtics would never come closer than nine after that.
Poole Party! Casual fans absolutely loved Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater from the logo to end the third quarter. Of course, the media gladly obliged:
Unbelievable range. That was undoubtedly the most important play of the game, as the Dubs extended their 20-point lead to 23… </sarcasm>
If I’m the Celtics, I’d be happy if the Warriors close with Poole instead of GPII in tight games.
Ime Udoka’s confidence in Daniel Theis
If you’ve been watching basketball long enough, you’d know that even good coaches sometimes have irrational faith on certain guys. We saw in Game 1 how the Warriors lost the game because Kerr decided to ride with a 38-year-old Andre Iguodala in the fourth quarter. In Game 2, it was Udoka’s turn as he turned to Theis to close out the first and third quarters—despite the Celtics’ success with small ball lineups.
It’s no coincidence that Curry and Poole have been feasting with Theis on the floor. Over the first two games, Theis has a net rating of minus-42.3 when facing Curry lineups and minus-26 versus Poole-led second units. Curry and Poole are each shooting 66.7% on above the break threes with Theis on the floor. He is precisely the guy you want to avoid playing when you’re going up against quick guards with deep range.
Tatum’s Kobe fanboyism
There’s a line between giving an homage and being creepy. Tatum may just have crossed it with his latest Kobe Bryant tribute. The armband was cool. The text message was cheesy, but, okay, it was the biggest game of his career, so let’s give him a pass. His latest stunt of cosplaying Kobe’s pre-draft outfit was too much though.
We understand that Tatum idolized Kobe growing up, but come on, this is getting out of hand. It’s either he’s a high priest of Bryantology or he’s just craving for the same attention that the media showered Devin Booker last year when he was baptized as Kobe’s heir. We’re all expecting a 6-for-24 game to come in the Finals, but it’s time to be your own man, JT.
ESPN’s Mike Breen is expected to be back for Game 3 after being sidelined due to Covid, which means no more Mark Jones. Thank God!
Jones absolutely had no chemistry with Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. There were times when he seemingly tried to start a banter with the two but it either flew over his partners’ heads or they just didn’t acknowledge him as a worthy teammate. In any case, get ready for some “Bang!” next game.