OAKLAND – If center Andrew Bogut plays this well over the next two games, the Warriors have a chance to beat the odds
Those odds remain long – nothing less than improbable – but overcoming them is slightly more conceivable after Bogut emerged from the shadows Thursday to lay the foundation of a 120-111 victory over Oklahoma City in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
“The big fella was amazing tonight on both ends of the floor,” forward Draymond Green said after the Warriors returned to Oracle Arena and fought off elimination, leaving OKC with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“Bogues was phenomenal,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He rebounded, he scored and he was aggressive. We went with him in the post to try and get him as a passer with our cutters around him and he was tremendous.”
Bogut’s numbers – 15 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals – were not as dazzling as those that might be dropped by a DeMarcus Cousins or even an Andre Drummond. The Warriors don’t need massive numbers out of the 7-foot Aussie. They need him to be a force in the paint, and that’s what he was.
It’s also what he hadn’t been through the first four games of this series and, frankly, for much of this postseason. Bogut through the first four games managed to play only 56 minutes, largely because he had more fouls (13) than points (12).
“It was frustrating,” Bogut said. “But that's professional sports. You’re going to have good games and bad games. I feel good about myself now, obviously, but you go on to another game, Game 6, so you’ve got to forget about it.”
Realizing the urgency facing the Warriors, Kerr on Wednesday made a plea for Bogut to be more productive and efficient. Plea granted.
“I had four crappy games and tried to have a good fifth one and didn’t want to have it end (Thursday),” Bogut said.
Bogut had 10 points and eight rebounds at the half, numbers he did not amass in a half in any game this season. He treated the paint as if it were his own private property, his constant activity saying, in body language, “No Trespassers.”
“He used his verticality on the defensive end, he was great on the offensive end as well,” Green said.
“Bogues is out best (interior) defender; he takes up a lot of space,” Kerr said. “He challenges everything at the rim, and staying out of foul trouble allowed us to keep him on the floor.”
Kerr and his staff consciously ensured Bogut would be involved from the opening tip. He played nine first-quarter minutes, touching the ball on nearly every offensive possession. On the other end, he was a big reason why the Thunder shot 28.6 percent in the opening quarter.
Early and late, Bogut got the best of active Thunder center Steven Adams, who had so bedeviled the Warriors in previous games. Neutralizing Adams is a requirement if the Warriors are to seriously compete around the rim, and Bogut exceeded that.
“If we’re going to come back and win this series, like we plan on doing,” Green said, “we need him to continue playing that way, which I have no doubt in my mind that he will.”
Bogut had help, inside and out. Green rebounded from two dismal showings at Oklahoma City to deliver his typical energy as well as 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, four blocked shots and a steal. Stephen Curry poured in 31 points, 12 in the final six minutes. Klay Thompson fired in 27 points, Mo Speights added 14 off the bench and Andre Iguodala spiked the offense with seven assists in 16 first-half minutes.
Bogut, however, was the biggest difference-maker on the court. The Warriors outscored the Thunder by 18 (48-30) in the paint. Moreover, OKC shot only 40.6 percent (15-of-37) when stepping onto what in this game was Bogut’s property.
“Last game, he got a little frustrated and picked up a few silly fouls,” Green said. “Today he was smart. He didn’t pick up any silly fouls and he dominated the game on both ends.”
Bogut for the first time in this series was a factor. He prodded the Warriors to a victory. They need two more now, and their chances of getting them rise tremendously if Bogut can take his game to Oklahoma.