When the Warriors starting lineup came out, it was apparent that Steve Kerr was trying to get something across to his team. Starting Curry, Thompson, Iguodola, Green, and Durant together for the first time ever was clearly in response to Friday’s rare big defeat.
Kerr was hoping for an early spark, or at least trying to convey to the team how important it was to come out playing well today. And it worked. The Warriors opened up with a 37-point first quarter that felt reminiscent of Warriors Classic, and even though New Orleans cut the halftime lead to 7, Golden State didn’t really look back. Kerr not only started those five players together for the first time, he shortened the rotation, with great results.
All five starters were at least +20, and they combined to play 141 minutes, a fairly high number given the Warriors led 100-75 with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter. If it was meant as a wake up call, it seems to have worked. It demoralized the Pelicans early, leading to possessions like this one, with multiple New Orleans defenders just standing around as though the play had been dead for a few seconds:
playoff defense is so intense pic.twitter.com/IvQ61ZZGms
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) May 6, 2018
That’s Steph Curry being given a wide-open corner three in what was essentially a must-win playoff game for New Orleans. Not great!
But when you’re getting beat by that particular Golden State lineup, there’s only so much you can do. The Warriors played their starters for the first six minutes of the game, until Kevin Looney came in for Andre Iguodola. They led 20-8 at that point, and then maintained their lead for the next three minutes, when Steph and Klay were subbed out with Golden State up 27-14.
And that was pretty much it; Kevin Durant ended up with 38 to lead the way.
Credit Kerr for being willing to flip the switch to this lineup now, although it feels a bit like a bullet they were hoping to save for later on in the playoffs. But if they can bring that intensity to the start of every game, it might not really matter who the competition is.