Inconsistency has been the primary theme for the Warriors’ bench production in the season thus far, although they’ve been stifling defensively. During their season opener versus the Lakers, the second unit produced an impressive 44 points, but their contribution degenerated into a futile effort the following night against the Clippers, where they scored just 14 points and committed 16 fouls. Overall, the Warriors are receiving a mediocre 33 points per game from the second unit; however, the bench’s scoring should only improve from here on out to compliment their suffocating defense.
Much of the Warriors’ point-production from the reserves was dependent on the return of Harrison Barnes, who played his first game of the season on Wednesday night against the Timberwolves. The Dubs breezed by the Wolves with a final score of 106-93. Following the impressive performance, David Lee credited the victory to the second unit.
“Our bench was one of the biggest reasons we won this game,” Lee said. “Our bench did a great job of decreasing their lead and giving us some momentum.”
Lee’s comments were unsurprising considering the fact that Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut spent inconsiderable minutes on the floor. Curry was being treated for a sprained left ankle in the locker room. He played a measly 24 minutes where he produced just five points on 2-8 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, Bogut was forced on the sidelines with foul trouble.
Needless to say, Barnes’ contribution offensively was instrumental to a second unit who struggled to generate an advantageous offense. After missing the first four games of the season due to left toe inflammation, he scored 14 points in just 14 minutes of play during his debut. While Barnes’ performance was vital, it wasn’t the only positive input from the bench.
The Warriors have been a historically feeble defensive franchise. For 35 years, they never surpassed 10th place in defensive efficiency, but Golden State has shown signs of possibly breaking that trend this season. Although this season has yet to flourish, the Warriors are currently second in the league in defensive efficiency behind the Indiana Pacers, according to Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com. In their latest victory, it was their reserves that propelled the Warriors to victory with their aggressive play on the defensive end. The Timberwolves came out of the gates on fire, connecting on 7 of their first 12 shots, and held an 8-point lead advantage. However, scoring easy baskets wouldn’t be as accessible as the game wore on. Golden State owned the third quarter, going on a 13-2 run while Minnesota struggled to put the ball in the hole.
“They were really gritty,” Lee said of the bench.
Of course, acquiring Andre Iguodala in the offseason and having heavy-set Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup constitutes a solid defense, but with the defensive prowess of Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, Tony Douglas, and Draymond Green coming off the bench, they have all the tools they need to maintain this mode of exasperating defense all year.