OAKLAND — The Oracle Arena crowd could sense it. So could Mike Brown.
The Warriors were losing their grip of Game 2 against the Jazz. However non-imposing they may seem, Utah was making a run in the third quarter. They were lulling Golden State to sleep. The energy was not where it needed to be.
“We let go of the rope a little bit,” Steph Curry said postgame.
So Brown made a playoff adjustment. He pulled Zaza Pachulia with 9:11 left in the third quarter and inserted Andre Iguodala alongside the four other superstars, a lineup playfully known as the Hampton 5. The result? An immediate 8-0 run. A 65-58 score instantly became 73-58. Utah was quickly reminded they don’t have the firepower to compete. Golden State got it’s breathing room and looks headed for its second consecutive sweep.
“It’s definitely draining,” Gordon Hayward said about the scoring run.
Curry agrees. Brown’s lineup modification was unexpected, but it was powerful.
“He made an adjustment to try to get the pace back up,” Curry said. “That’s usually our bread and butter so we can turn stops into transition buckets. Even if they score, just still push the pace and get the ball moving a little bit. That definitely helped, for sure.”
The start of the night, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant both said what makes the lineup so potent is the communication, in particular Iguodala. The 33-year-old is 0-for-17 from downtown to start the postseason, but he still impacting the game in so many other areas — disrupting passing lanes, guiding the team to play in an up-tempo pace, spacing the floor with such grace.
“He just plays so well with everybody,” Durant said
There’s really no such thing as criticizing Steve Kerr, but he does have a tendency to give role players the benefit of the doubt — even if the flow of the game could use a different look. Anderson Varejao and Harrison Barnes were examples last postseason. By no means was Pachulia hurting the Warriors with his play on Thursday night, but Brown understood subbing in Iguodala was a power move. It was calculated and Utah stumbled. The timing of it was impeccable and it shows that Brown does bring a new set of eyes to the Warriors. He brings value as a coach.
In previous playoff matchups, using the Super Death Lineup — what it was known as before Kevin Durant’s arrival — was for dire circumstances. Iguodala received the start in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season, but Kerr rarely used the lineup to jump start the team. He used the Super Death Lineup to close out a game, to close out a series.
This slight shift in strategy from Brown didn’t feel like desperation. It felt more like he wanted the Warriors to regain control of the game in the third quarter rather than the fourth. And the best way to make that happen was the Hampton 5 lineup. Instead of riding out Pachulia to get him his allotted minutes, Golden State’s acting head coach made a judgement call.
“Our guys hit big shots to keep stretching the lead once they pulled within a few points,” Brown said. “So I give our guys credit. They hung in there. They found a way to win.”
They did, Mike, and you really helped them out this time. Kudos.