Warriors’ bench returns in big way 

click to enlarge Warriors forward Andre Iguodala celebrates after making a 3-pointer against the Grizzlies during Sunday’s playoff opener. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • Warriors forward Andre Iguodala celebrates after making a 3-pointer against the Grizzlies during Sunday’s playoff opener.

OAKLAND — He only played 11 minutes Sunday, but considering Festus Ezeli played a grand total of 19 minutes in the Warriors' four-game, first-round playoff sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans, it was yet another telling number for a team that consistently seems to find new ways to win.

With starting center Andrew Bogut and forward Draymond Green in foul trouble in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors turned to their veteran backup to face off against the physical front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Ezeli held his own, as did the rest of the Warriors' bench in a 101-86 victory at Oracle Arena.

"That's the luxury we have with our team," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We have a lot of depth, and this series in particular, we're probably going to have to use it because [Randolph and Gasol] draw a lot of fouls down there."

The Warriors went 11 men deep at key junctures of the game, and benefited from 30 points off the bench. They even got a few strong minutes from David Lee, who missed the previous series with a back injury. That meant Green, who averaged 41 minutes per game against the Pelicans, could scale back to 27, in part because of the foul trouble but also because the Warriors found other scorers when they needed them.

Harrison Barnes made all four of his field-goal attempts and finished with 11 points. Andre Iguodala played nearly 30 minutes off the bench and scored eight points, and Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa contributed productive minutes in the backcourt. Marreese Speights had 10 points and five rebounds in only 12 minutes.

Any time the Grizzlies began to cut into the lead, it appeared, someone was there to grab a key offensive rebound or score a basket to cut off a Memphis run.

"It seems like everybody in the game contributed," Bogut said. "If we can keep our rotation this deep through the playoffs, it's really going to help us in the long run."

And, of course, it meant that the stellar guard tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could feel a little bit less pressure to put up the majority of the shots.

Consider: In the four games against New Orleans, Curry and Thompson averaged 58.8 of the Warriors' 108.8 points per game, or 54 percent. On Sunday, Curry and Thompson combined for 40 of the Warriors 108 points, or 37 percent.

"We have huge depth," said Ezeli, who made both of his field-goal attempts in a four-point, three-rebound performance. "We've got a lot of guys off the bench."

Kerr says he plans to continue to use nearly all of them in ways he didn't against New Orleans.

"Well, we need everybody to play well," Kerr said. "We're not going to get the whole group playing at a high level individually every single night, but if they're all competing, we'll find enough guys to play well."

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Michael Weinreb

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