- How did the Warriors' center morph from worst-player-on-the-floor in Game 1 to Golden State's savior in Game 2? The Open Floor podcast explores that and more.
The Warriors managed another come-from-behind victory this postseason, knocking off the Raptors 109-104 in Toronto on Sunday night and the Open Floor podcast crew was there to witness it. Long after the final buzzer sounded, Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver got together in the wee hours of the night to provide some content. They dive into a killer performance from the Warriors and whether the Raptors deserve some blame for their loss. Then, Sharp and Golliver breakdown Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors playing like champions and offer a reminder that it's crazy no one knows whether Kevn Durant is playing in this series. But here, we will focus on DeMarcus Cousins' improbable hero moment in Game 2.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Golliver: Ultimately it wound up not really mattering because I think Golden State won it with their defense they won it with DeMarcus Cousins delivering quality minutes out of absolute nowhere it's funny coming into this game right. So there's this big question what do you do with cousins. And I was actually having flashbacks to when I went to a youth soccer training. So they found like one British guy who is a soccer coach in Oregon and they saw—or I don't even know if he was a soccer coach.
Sharp: If you're British or coaching soccer.
Golliver: Yeah exactly. So he does his soccer training and his whole philosophy was like, 'you build your team from the middle, right? Like, you have all your your best players in the middle. And then he had what they called, "nuggets" and he said basically like, "hide your nuggets," that was his whole philosophy of like, in the least important positions, and surround your nuggets with your best players. So I thought this was Steve Kerr's strategy coming into Game 2. It's like, what do you do with Cousins? He's so hobbled, he looks so bad in Game 1, he can barely stay on the court, he's not moving, he's getting picked apart, he's not doing anything offensively, I thought his strategy was, "OK, make sure he's always playing with the positive plus-minus guys, Curry and Draymond, so that they can cover up for his mistakes, they can limit his negative impact and he can just buy them time until they get to their lineups that they really like with Looney. That's sort of how it started in the first half and he got into real quick foul trouble like right off the gate and I was like, "All right well they're just going to be basically treading water." But as the game unfolded Looney wound up not playing that many minutes and then he goes out injured, so they have to turn really heavily to Cousins who, to me in Game 1 was the worst player on the court,
Golliver: And he stepped up in a monster way. I mean every little bit helps I think from him, but the rebounding I mean, I think they were exploiting Toronto on the inside a little bit. He had one really big three pointer when the ball kind of like kicked back out to him any any drained it from, you know, pretty close to the top of the key. And he held up somehow defensively down the stretch even when Klay Thompson was out injured and they're just, you know, Toronto was trying to make this kind of like frantic comeback, he's still wound up playing fourth quarter minutes. If you had told me that's how this game was going to play out, you know, when it started, I would have called you a liar.
Sharp: No, you and I were legitimately kind of arguing about it at the beginning of the game texting back and forth. To me, I saw that Cousins was starting and I was just like, "This is a bad idea. Like, I understand what Kerr is going for what he's hoping to get out of Cousins, the minutes he's trying to steal here, maybe hoping he can get him into a rhythm get, his confidence going and then he can help at the start of the second and start of the fourth." Because that's those are the minutes they were gonna need from Boogie if Looney was healthy. So I got what Kerr was going for but I also just thought it was, like, not going to end well you know. And I think everybody thought that way.
Golliver: Honestly I thought he was going to play him, like, the same eight to 12 minutes, but just do it in those quick burst at the start of the quarters and then just kind of, like, hang on for dear life, right?
Sharp: Yeah. And then he came back with him at the start of the second.
Golliver: Right and that's what I'm saying. And so that was that part surprised me. But then I think he said after the game he was planning to get him 20 minutes, so that sort of lines up with like kind of these bursts at the beginning of the quarters, because I think they're worried about his conditioning too and like he tires quickly so.
Sharp: And and to start the game, by the way, I mean he was a step slow on every pick and roll and was giving up open shots, like, basically every possession for a couple of possessions there and then he got yanked, I think with like eight minutes to go in the first. And I don't know watching watching Boogie over the last game and a half, or I guess two games now, like there are moments out there where it's just hard to watch because you're like, "What? How is it? How have things gotten this bad?"
Golliver: But so as that game unfolded though, didn't you think the exploitation stuff they were doing early, didn't it disappear?
Sharp: Yeah, he hung right in there and was it was a net positive. I don't know what the plus-minus says, but like, he was he was a helpful player for them down the stretch, which was shocking honestly. And it, that's one where it does reflect poorly on the Raptors, because they couldn't figure out a way to take advantage of him on defense and that's the supporting cast not really showing up beyond Kawhi, although Fred Van Vliet was pretty awesome. That was one note I had in my game notes: Fred Van Vleet is Kyrie and Kyle Lowry is Dellavedova this series so far.
Golliver: OK, so Cousins was plus-12 in his 28 minutes. I mean, that number of 28 just jumps out the box score. And they were minus-seven in the 20 minutes without him.
Sharp: Go back to Game 1. When he played eight minutes and you and I were on the podcast
Golliver: He was the worst player on the court.
SHARP: Those eight minutes felt like 20 minutes and were disastrous for like 75 percent of the time. And then to play 28 minutes and be that successful is a huge win. And it's also something that like we have to see whether they can replicate that, whether Boogie can replicate that, because if Looney—I think he had like a bruised collarbone. Doesn't sound great. Or a sprained collarbone. I did not know you could sprain your collarbone—but like, If he's not going to be available for Game 3 or Game 4, Boogie is going to continue to be a question mark.
Golliver: So it sounds like this is from Mark Madina he writes: The plan is for Looney to play Game 3. Looney said he's gonna go out and try unless he wakes up tomorrow and feels substantially worse, right?
Sharp: So that's encouraging.
Golliver: That's good news. I'll say this about Cousins though: Even if he doesn't have another game in this series as good as this, this, I thought this was sort of like a character moment for him almost, a career defining moment for him. Because this is a guy who has made his teams either worse or, in some cases just kind of like poisoned the situation, orm you know, by just his presence and by the complaints and the immaturity and all this stuff earlier in his career, time and time again. This is the biggest moment of his career, by far. He never played a playoff game before this year. He has a crazy set back early in the playoffs and he could have easily mailed it in with free agency coming up and with, you know, the possibility of, let's face it: If you have multiple season-altering injuries in back-to-back years on your leg, then the odds are pretty good you're gonna have another one, especially if you push it really hard and try to get back on the court before you're fully healthy. The fact that he was willing to do that for his team, for his coach, for his organization, that may not actually even bring him back next year, I think it speaks very highly of him and it reinforces some of the messages which he said along the way, which is, "Look, I'm actually a team guy. If you get to know me, I'm about the right things." He went out there and actually proved it. I would say in a big-time way for the first time in his career.
Sharp: Yea, And that's not generic praise. I'm glad you made that point because it's something that occurred to me midway through the game, where, like, Boogie has had a lot of people, a lot of media and outsiders basically looking at his game and saying, "Oh, like, you don't fit here. This was a bad idea by the Warriors." And in some cases you can make a credible case with stats that it has been a bad idea and it hasn't worked as well as anyone would have hoped. But this particular situation that he's stepping into is kind of a nightmare.
Golliver: They don't need an All-Star for him right now, they just need a live body.
Golliver: Somehow with one leg, He was a live body, getting lots of crucial rebounds and stepping up and taking a shot, man like I'm tough it's out. Imagine not playing for a month, You come in, you don't you don't play well at all game one, so that's a huge mental challenge right there. "Am I good to go? Like, can I contribute?" Those kinds of thoughts had to be going through his head. They kick the ball out to him on a three-pointer, you know, key second half situation. What's he do? Step up and drill it. You know, that is impressive mental fortitude.
Sharp: I also can't imagine being as talented as Boogie is. I mean, and then having this be your time on an international stage. You know, like, Boogie a couple of years ago, that's why I said watching him hobble around, it's like, "Wow, like, is this really where we are right now?" Because Boogie a couple of years ago could do whatever he wanted on a basketball court. And when he was motivated, like, he was basically an unsolvable problem for defenses. And so it's hard to watch him basically be, like, a rich man's Andrew Bogut at times for the Warriors, but given all that it was pretty cool to see him come through over and over again.