When JaVale McGee checks into a game at Oracle Arena, there’s a rumble among the fans that eventually grows into a raucous cheer.
McGee has made many laugh during his NBA career because of some on-court follies, but his role with the Golden State Warriors has made him into a fan favorite, even in limited minutes.
If the Warriors need some energy on offense? McGee can bring it. A spectacular play on defense? McGee’s good for those, too.
The eight-year brought both Wednesday, sparking the Warriors off the bench with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks in just 13 minutes as the Warriors easily overcame Kevin Durant’s absence in a 110-81 throttling of the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night in the first round of the playoffs.
The Warriors led the best-of-seven series 2-0. Game 3 is Saturday night in Portland.
Durant missed the game with a left calf strain, and All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson didn’t shoot the ball well, but when players like McGee can fill in, Golden State doesn’t miss a beat.
McGee made all seven of his field goals Wednesday. The athleticism of the 7-foot center makes him an easy target for lobs at the rim and is an asset in Golden State’s pick-and-roll defense.
“I just try to be efficient out there,” McGee said. “I don’t try to do too much. I just try to do what’s necessary for me in the minutes that I’m out there, and I feel like I’m doing a good job of that.”
In the first two games of the series, McGee has made 10 of 11 shots and has six blocks in just 23 minutes. His energy on both ends has been hard for Portland to contain.
“We can’t allow JaVale McGee to come in and impact the game the way he has,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said. “We’ve seen him play a number of games, and he has his moments, but he’s not coming in and doing what he’s been doing in these first two games. We’ve got to try to limit that if we want a chance to win games.”
That will mean figuring out how to occupy McGee, who doesn’t have to worry about a scoring threat in the post against Portland. Jusuf Nurkic is still out with a nondisplaced fracture in his right leg that kept him out the final seven regular-season games.
And the Blazers need more from their backcourt tandem of Lillard and CJ McCollum if they want a chance to win.
Lillard scored just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting. McCollum had 11 points and shot 4 for 17. They combined for just two assists and made only one 3-pointer between them.
The duo combined for 75 points in Sunday’s Game 1 loss that was competitive until the fourth quarter.
McGee’s size is able to alter shots around the rim from Portland’s small backcourt, in addition to his defense on the perimeter.
“JaVale has given us great minutes in that role,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And playing with athleticism and energy, he’s still able to cover their smaller players and be a force around the rim offensively.”
So when McGee is in the game, he’s free to cause problems all over the court.
“He was amazing all over the court for us (Wednesday),” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It gave us a huge lift off the bench.”
McGee wasn’t the only reserve to make up for Durant’s absence. Andre Iguodala had six points, six assists and 10 rebounds, and Ian Clark scored 13 points for Golden State.
Rookie Patrick McCaw started for Durant and had nine points and five rebounds.
Even without Durant, Golden State still has three All-Stars to rely on, even if none of them shot well.
Curry led the Warriors with 19 points but shot 6 of 18. Thompson scored 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Draymond Green had six points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.