OKLAHOMA CITY – When Steve Kerr came into the Western Conference Finals asking his entire team to fight for rebounds against Oklahoma City the coach could not have expected what he received in Game 2.
The Warriors battled well enough to win the rebounding war by nine, 45-36.
Kerr could not have anticipated that because the last time the Warriors did so well on the glass against the Thunder was more than five years ago.
The Warriors on Feb. 13, 2011 outrebounded OKC by 14 – with a roster that included David Lee (19 rebounds), Andris Biedrins (seven), Dorell Wright (seven), Ekpe Udoh (four) and, of course, Vladimir Radmanovic (four). Only Stephen Curry remains from that team.
The Warriors in Game 2 used a full team concept. No one had more than eight rebounds (Draymond Green) but 10 others grabbed at least two. That’s precisely what Kerr wants to see.
“That’s been the message since Day 1 when we play these guys,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com Saturday after practice at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “We just keep talking about it over and over and over again. We can get stops, but it’s not really a stop until you get the board.”
Most notable has been the work of guards Klay Thompson and Curry. Curry averaged 5.4 rebounds per game in the regular season but is averaging 6.0 through the first two games of the series – including a team-high 10 in Game 1. Thompson, who averaged 3.8 in the regular season, has grabbed 11 in the first two games.
That’s 11.5 rebounds between the two starting guards, almost enough to make assistant coach Ron Adams proud of them.
“Coach Adams always talks about it,” Curry said. “He wants me and Klay to try to get 12 to 14 rebounds a game between the two of us.”
Kerr and Adams are pushing for rebounds because that’s particularly crucial against a Thunder team that led the NBA in that category. Kerr has acknowledged that the Warriors don’t have to own the glass, just that they can’t be owned.
To do his part, Curry wants to unveil his inner Dennis Rodman, who is one of the greatest rebounders in league history. The MVP said he studied Rodman and discovered how a 6-foot-7 forward took advantage of shot angles and court awareness to anticipate and react.
“If somebody is crashing the glass, try to get a body on them,” Curry said. “If not, read the angle of the shot, see if it’s going to short or long, left or right, and try to beat whoever it is to the punch.”
It worked well for Curry and Thompson in Game 1 and it worked well for the Warriors in Game 2. They can expect OKC to reemphasize rebounding for Game 3 on Sunday.
“We need to do a better job rebounding the basketball than we did,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “They were quicker on loose basketballs. They came in from different angles to rebound. They kept balls alive on the glass. We got caught into some rotations a couple times where we didn't have our block-out assignments lined up.”
“Give them more credit. And we'll have to do a much, much better job in Game 3 than we did in Game 2 because I think when you look at it, those are opportunities that we don't get a chance to fast break, and those are opportunities for them to get another opportunity to shoot or potentially get fouled.”
The Warriors can’t expect to the win that stat line every game. But if they lose it by an appreciable margin, it’ll force them to work that much harder in all other areas.
“If we can get the long rebounds, even get some tip-outs, we can get into transition a lot faster and gain more possessions, and keep them out of second-chance points,” Curry said.
“It’s just an effort thing, and an IQ thing.”