'Strength in Numbers' Defining Golden State Warriors' Run at History

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 2: Shaun Livingston #34 and DeMarcus Cousins #0 of the Golden State Warriors high five after Game Two of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors on June 2, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Already without Kevin Durant, the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors lost Klay Thompson to a hamstring injury in the second half of Sunday night's Game 2. It didn't help that Stephen Curry "just didn't feel right," too.

But even with the health deck stacked against them, the "Strength in Numbers" Warriors held on, beating the Toronto Raptors 109-104 to even the 2019 NBA Finals at one game apiece and further their chances at completing a three-peat that would give them a historic four titles in five years.

95.7 The Game @957thegame

Stephen Curry on Strength In Numbers motto: “It isn’t something you just throw out there to have nice shirts & give out to the crowd at Oracle & have all this marketing stuff. It’s literally how we approach every day from training camp to June.” #Warriors https://t.co/yocj58dW1P

Timely contributions from all over the roster gave this victory the feel of one from the pre-Durant Warriors.

  • Draymond Green: 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists
  • DeMarcus Cousins: 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists
  • Andre Iguodala: eight points, eight rebounds, six assists
  • Quinn Cook: nine points, including back-to-back threes in the second half
  • Andrew Bogut: six points in seven minutes

"When Kevin's out there, we all have the luxury of just saying, 'OK, that set didn't work, we still got this guy to just throw a ball into it and get out of the way,'" Green told ESPN's Nick Friedell before Game 2. "That luxury isn't there anymore."

And now, it's not just Durant. As detailed by Ben Golliver of the Washington Post, Golden State's injury report is getting pretty substantial:

Ben Golliver @BenGolliver

Warriors' Game 2 ailments... - Kevin Durant (leg) - Stephen Curry (dehydration) - Klay Thompson (hamstring) - Andre Iguodala (leg) - DeMarcus Cousins (leg) - Kevon Looney (chest)

At the start of this dynasty, the Warriors looked as fresh and unstoppable as Keanu Reeves in the first half of the first John Wick. Now, they're like the beat-up, back-against-the-wall Wick we see in Chapter 3

As the Raptors found in Sunday's Game 2, it's tough to bury the NBA's boogeymen. Even when they're hobbled. Like Wick randomly finding the strength (and equipment) he needs to move forward, the Warriors get random contributions from lesser names at just the right moments.

Cousins, who made his first start since tearing his quad in the first round of this postseason, was critical in tying the series. And the points weren't really his biggest contribution.

In the fourth quarter, both teams' offenses completely bogged down. From the 5:39 mark of the final frame until just seven seconds remained, the Warriors were stuck at 106 points. Cousins had three boards in that stretch, and his defense helped hold the Raptors at bay.

StatMuse @statmuse

Boogie made his presence known Game 2 of the #NBAFinals with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists - all three of which are new playoff career-highs given his limited postseason experience. #GSWvsTOR #StrengthInNumbers 📊 https://t.co/WNtk4y3TmS https://t.co/VpOcbOfaMA

Iguodala did his part, too. The 2015 Finals MVP has had his fair share of huge plays for the Warriors over the years, and his defense has always been reliable in the postseason.

In Game 2, after the Raptors slowly crawled to within two points during that tough offensive stretch for Golden State, Iguodala struck again:


IGGY sealed Game 2 for Golden State! 👌💦 #NBAFinals https://t.co/lREHDZUGJd

"That's kind of disrespectful to leave a guy like Andre Iguodala open like that," Curry said in a postgame interview with ESPN's Doris Burke. "He's made big shots like that before."

And, of course, there's Draymond.

After going for 17, 10 and nine in 41 minutes during Game 2, Green is now averaging 13.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per 36 minutes since the game in which Durant went down with an injured calf against the Houston Rockets.

"I think we play our best when we're threatened," Green told NBATV's Grant Hill after the game. "You know, when a team poses a threat, I've never seen us fold."

Green is a major reason that's true, especially lately. With Durant out of the lineup, Green has been on the ball for significantly more possessions. And he's consistently pushing the pace, helping remind people how this team played in the first couple years of this dynasty.

Depth was a staple of those teams, as well. And on Sunday, Bogut, Livingston and Cook all made big plays.

Bogut converted three alley-oops in the second half. Cook drilled back-to-back threes to stymie a mini-run by the Raptors. And Shaun Livingston made perhaps the play of the night by merely catching a pass.

Right before Iguodala hit the game-sealing three, Curry threw a pass that looked as good as stolen by Kawhi Leonard. Livingston sealed Kawhi off for the catch before assisting on the Iguodala three.

"We all got a joke amongst us of bad receivers and good receivers," Green told reporters after the game. "I always call Kevin a bad receiver. I always call Shaun a bad receiver. He turned into Megatron tonight for that pass. It was big for us."

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 2: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors shares a laugh during interview after the game against the Toronto Raptors during Game Two of the NBA Finals on June 2, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO
NBA Photos/Getty Images

Now, as the series shifts back to Oakland for Game 3, the Golden State Wicks will need everyone at the ready again. With OG Anunoby activated for Game 2, the Raptors have an entirely clean bill of basketball health. No one is on the injury report.

Golden State's injury report is longer than some shopping lists.

According to Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Thompson expects to play in Game 3, but he's also getting an MRI for his hamstring. Even if he's in the lineup, he may not be at 100 percent.

Maybe the huge shots on Wednesday will come from Jonas Jerebko or Alfonzo McKinnie. Maybe Sunday's heroes will step up again.

If they don't, the Raptors will have a good shot at reclaiming home-court advantage. As pointed out by Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal, this Toronto team has the best score in simple rating system (point differential plus strength of schedule) of any Finals opponent the Warriors have faced during this run.

Wick had Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Ian McShane and The Continental. Against a team as good as the Raptors, the Warriors will need more than Curry and Durant to complete the three-peat.