OAKLAND – If it’s the postseason and the Warriors are running into a problem, they have a formula that usually points them toward a solution.
Shake a few drops of hot Stephen Curry and add a few sprigs of the sage that is Andre Iguodala.
Those were the prime ingredients to a 118-91 victory over Oklahoma City in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.
Crisis averted, and back-to-back defeats avoided.
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“Steph is gonna Steph, all right?” center Festus Ezeli said after Curry smoked the Thunder with a show-stopping 17-point third quarter en route to a 28-point game.
“Andre was fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said after the veteran came off the bench to deliver 16 points, three rebounds and three steals in posting a plus-18 over 26 minutes of omnipresent play.
Though Curry and Iguodala were the pivotal players as the Warriors evened this best-of-seven series at 1-1 before the action moves to Oklahoma City, they brought plenty of help – particularly Iguodala.
The Warriors often boast of their depth, and it showed in Game 2. Iguodala was the first off the bench to enter, followed by Ezeli, who produced 12 points (5-of-5 shooting), five rebounds and a blocked shot. Marreese Speights came in to put in 12 points, on 5-of-6 shooting. Shaun Livingston didn’t score much (2 points) but finished with four rebounds and three assists.
This was a far better showing than Game 1, when the subs actually hurt the cause.
“Game 1 was definitely not our best game,”Ezeli said. “We came in with better focus tonight, the bench did.”
“That was a great effort by the bench to really give the starters enough rest and to help them out,” Kerr said. “It really does take a full team effort against Oklahoma City because they’re so talented and difficult to guard.”
The Warriors reserves outscored those of the Thunder 50-29. No Warriors starter played more than 32 minutes, which was significant on this night.
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Curry bruised his right elbow when he landed on a metal portion of the floor after diving over courtside seats in pursuit of a loose ball. Bogut’s movements were more stilted than usual, perhaps because his groin area remains sore after straining it in Game 5 of the conference semifinals against Portland. And Draymond Green, who routinely throws his body at bigger men, always could use a break.
“That’s huge when our bench plays that way; they give us a huge boost,” Green said. “Tonight, Andre was phenomenal off the bench. Festus, Shaun, Mo . . . all those guys, they did a great job off the bench. Andy (Varejao) came in and gave us some good minutes. It was great.
“It was definitely what we needed. When the bench is clicking like that, we’re tough to beat.”
Though it was Curry’s third quarter outburst that put the game away, raising a seven-point lead to 20, the Warriors were the better team across the board. Though Thunder star Kevin Durant totaled a game-high 29 points, he also coughed up eight turnovers against a harassing defense led by Iguodala.
Fixing the errors that led to a Game 1 loss that sent the fan base into high anxiety, this was the Warriors operating at a level approaching their best.
Their turnovers were down (12, leading to 12 OKC points), while their defense disrupted the Thunder offense enough to force 16 turnovers, leading to 23 Warriors points. The Warriors outshot the Thunder (50.6 percent to 44.9), shot more free throws (28-19) and, most surprising of all, grabbed more rebounds (45-36).
The Warriors played with a clear sense of urgency, if not desperation.
“We knew we needed a win tonight badly,” Kerr said, “and we responded well.”
They usually do when Curry and Iguodala are on their games, and when Green (10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) drifts toward triple-double territory.
“Game 3 will be important,” Green said. “It’s not the end all, be all, but it’s a game we want to win. When you win the margin that we won by tonight, it makes it a little bit tougher because usually the other team is pissed off and usually the team that won by that amount relaxes a little bit.
“Now, being 1-1, I don’t think that affects us that much. “
The Warriors after the Game 1 loss contended they knew what they had to do to even the series. So they mixed their usual formula and, once again, it worked like a charm.