If you want a peek at how important Andrew Bogut is to the Warriors, take a look back at the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings — A game that wound up a very casual 121-96 win for the Warriors.
When you see a margin of victory that large, the inclination is to think there was no key element, no critical juncture, no overly meaningful stretch that determined the outcome. And sometimes that’s true. But not on this night.
Hard to believe/remember, but this game started out with the Kings taking a 20-10 lead. Ben McLemore was scoring and the Kings looked awfully confident and comfortable. As you would figure, the Warriors would ease themselves back into the game, and then some, and it was Bogut who was most responsible.
Curry would rack up the points on the offensive end, but it was Bogut who fueled it all.
Here’s a snippet of some — emphasis: some — of what Bogut did in the first 12.
Bogut blocked a Rudy Gay dunk three-plus minutes into the game, with the Warriors already down 9-4, which got a fastbreak going; he stopped a dunk when he took a hard, no-highlight foul on McLemore midway through; he stood tall and forced a DeMarcus Cousins miss with 2:10 left in the first quarter, which led to two Curry free throws at the other end; he did just enough to intimidate Quincy Miller on the next possession and caused him to miss a peeper and the Warriors scored at the other end; with 48 seconds left in the period, he blocked Jason Thompson at the rim and it was a score the other way.
By the end of the period, the Warriors were up 29-22, stability had been restored and they played from ahead for yet another game. Besides all that documented stuff above, Bogut was the man primarily responsible for Cousins’ 1-for-6, three-turnover first quarter.
If you want to look past the first quarter, the theme still continues. When Bogut went out with four fouls in the third, Cousins began to do some damage. But still, this game was about the first quarter and the tone Bogut helps his team set.
Rim protection for the Warriors is huge because one of the keys to their defense is an ability for several wing defenders — Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Justin Holiday — to switch everything on the perimeter. But the Warriors don’t just like to switch, they like to pressure out there, too, trying to take advantage of their length.
That sometimes leaves them vulnerable to penetration. But Bogut has done an incredible job this year of turning that vulnerability into a strength. And I say strength for a reason: Because often those defensive plays by Bogut at the rim lead to transition, and that’s the absolute strength of this team: to play uptempo and in the open court.
What Bogut does, essentially, is turn a disadvantageous situation — one in which the opposing team appears to be poised for an easy score at the rim — into exactly the thing the Warriors are fantastic at: running a fastbreak. The win over the Kings was just another game that solidifies the notion that the Warriors might be able to win some games, maybe a series without Bogut in the postseason, but they likely aren’t going to win the whole thing.
If he can only stay healthy…