It’s fitting that the Warriors are this season celebrating 75 years of basketball for the franchise, because it seems like that long since they’ve had a bench this good.
The reserves showed up once again Friday night against New Orleans and blitzed the undermanned Pelicans 126-85.
Steve Kerr said after that contest that Payton needed more minutes, full stop. The young wing rewarded those remarks with another breakout performance.
Payton’s defense is as always his calling card, but what has really popped is his slashing and athletic ability.
Kerr said that he allows them to do some surprising things like having the bigs as shooters on the outside and Payton inside:
He’s really a weapon. He’s a dynamic player. The fit with this team is so good because he has shooting around him. We can almost invert the offense, he can become the dive man… So it’s an interesting, different kind of look and Gary is so effective as a dive guy.”
When Payton has been matched up with Iguodala and Green, both Warriors (7-1) constantly look to set up their bouncy teammate.
It’s almost like when they had JaVale McGee on the team and would try to throw 50 ally-oops a game, except now it’s to their 6-foot-3 guard.
But Payton is just one cog in the Warriors bench machine that’s been humming at a consistent speed.
Nemanja Bjelica was a team high plus-33 and had a casual 13 points, seven rebounds and three 3’s. When he replaces Kevon Looney on the court he just opens up so much space with his shooting and playmaking.
He is also on the receiving end of his teammates vision like Iguodala who had 10 assists in just 17 minutes.
Iguodala the depth of this year’s squad has been fun to be a part of:
I enjoy playing. I’m still working hard—harder than I probably should be, but I’m having fun and enjoying it. And that’s something I’m trying to do all year, make sure I’m helping the young guys get better. The crazy thing is we still have two starters who are starting to get comfortable at looking at a date to return.”
When the bench unit comes in the ball hops around the court and is aesthetically pleasing to see. Everyone touches the ball and most importantly, everyone is a threat.
Even a guy like Damion Lee, who only had six points Friday but shoots over 50 percent from 3 on the year. It’s really an embarrassment of riches. Every bench player who reached double-digit minutes played had a double-figure plus-minus.
Kerr said the bench changed the game after New Orleans came out hitting some early shots:
Phenomenal, just looking at the box score, Beli, Gary and Andre, first three guys off the bench, plus-33, plus-23, plus-26, they all played 17 minutes. That’s pretty impressive.”
That would be the envy of any team in the NBA, but it seems almost like taunting when they play an undermanned Pelicans team, who are struggling to find any depth pieces.
Even their second options are piling up the injuries, like Herb Jones, who was only starting because of injuries, missed his second straight game with a concussion.
The Warriors took advantage of New Orleans’ ragtag lineups and feasted on a ton of open looks, mostly from deep.
Golden State put up 31 3’s in the first, almost all of them wide open. Maybe too wide open, as they started clanking them in the second quarter as they ended the half missing 12 straight 3’s.
The bench had the Warriors up 15 before missed 3’s and the Wiggins lineup ate away at the lead.
Kerr said he liked the shots they were getting but the Pelicans also did some things to switch the momentum:
They did a good job in the second quarter, they kind of changed the matchups around. They had Valanciunas guarding Wiggins and anytime you can sort of tweak the game a little bit, it just changes the look and the feel of the game.
The Warriors were up just four at the half, but once the reserves entered in the third, they blew the game open and the Warriors outscored the Pelicans 72-35 in the second half.
This long eight-game homestand is now half over, but there are no breaks as the Houston Rockets come to San Francisco Sunday. The young Rockets are just 1-7 on the year, but have promising rookies Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun starting to play at a high level.
The Warriors have the best defense in the league this year and currently the best by any team in the last 18 seasons according to Statmuse. They’ve allowed just 86.3 points per game over their last three games.