OAKLAND -– Fifteen minutes into Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors had no rhythm, couldn’t shoot straight and looked as if they needed to, ahem, adjust to the magnitude of the moment.
And, suddenly, with a wave of coach Steve Kerr’s hand, they were stabilized.
With 8:57 left in the half, Kerr gazed down his bench and summoned Marreese Speights, AKA Mo Buckets, who never seems fazed by much of anything. That he hadn’t played since May 9, idled by a strained right calf, didn’t matter.
It took Speights 45 seconds to hit his first shot, a turnaround jumper. He followed that 31 seconds later with a 17-foot fadeaway. Two minutes later, another jumper. Scoring six points in less than three minutes, Speights unchained his teammates, freed their minds and opened the door to a 108-100 overtime victory over the Cavaliers.
“He had some time off, but he settled right in because that’s what he does,” teammate Shaun Livingston said. “He can come in and get quick buckets.”
[MAIOCCO: Irving aggravates knee injury in overtime]
Down 31-23 when Speights entered, the Warriors were within three (36-33) and the crowd was fully reenergized when he left after four minutes. Less than two minutes later, the Warriors were up 41-36.
“The one thing about being hurt, it was my calf -– it wasn’t my shot,” Speights said. “So when I was hurt, I was still getting up shots. That’s my moneymaker. When I hit shots, a lot of things start going good. You feel good.”
Speights played only nine minutes. He scored eight points. It was enough to settle down the Warriors and light up the Cavaliers, enough to make an impact upon his return.