NBA 2022 Finals: Warriors get huge boost from Gary Payton II, whose return could legally change that series

The Warriors tried many different things in their 107-88 Game 2 win over the Celtics on Sunday night. They pushed the shooters harder, especially Al Horford and Marcus Smart, who both basically dared to make an open 3 in Game 1, something they did by combining a 10 to 15 clip. They made Klay Thompson match the big ones. releasing Draymond Green to get more in the line of fire defending the Boston stars.

But the most encouraging development for the Warriors on Sunday was the game of Gary Payton II, who after not seeing the floor in the first game ended Game 2 with seven points, three assists and three rebounds in a 3-for-3 shot. It was co-15 in 25 significant minutes.

Peyton has not played since breaking his elbow in the second game of the semifinals of the conference against Memphis and Steve Kerr did not think he was ready to go to the first game. But it was full on Sunday, and while it certainly is not 100 percent, it has shown that it is, without a doubt, healthy enough to be a significant part of the ongoing rotation.

“I feel normal, back to myself,” Payton said. “I’m not worried about the elbow. I feel fine.”

It’s hard to overstate what it means for Golden State to have a healthy Peyton. His return could turn this series, which is so uniform, in favor of the Warriors. Its effect is so significant. Anyone who has watched Warriors and Payton play this season knows this is no exaggeration. His energy, his pressure on the ball, his ability to run on the floor and cut in the open and act as a short circuit playmaker (all he showed on Sunday) make the Warriors a more dynamic and athletic team.

As for the matches, Peyton gives Golden State another outstanding defender for Jason Tatum and Jalen Brown. Peyton is not the size of Draymond Green or Andrew Wiggins, and Tatum has indeed been able to make some hard jumps on him, but you are not going to achieve anything easy with Peyton. Golden State will gladly accept Tatum to do whatever his heart desires from these shots:

“I thought he was brilliant,” Kerr said of Payton. “The level of defense, the physical ability and the speed in the transition, give us a huge boost.”

Jordan Poole has become an enigma in this series. He was a tourniquet in defense in game 1 and not much better in attack. Payton gives Kerr an alternative to Poole, and indeed, Payton jumped Poole into rotation in the second half on Sunday. Poole was out for almost the entire third quarter, when Golden State, perhaps not coincidentally, converted the two-point lead to a 23-point lead, and I guess Peyton would be in the top eleven against Poole if the game was close. below the extent.

Again, this changes the equation for the rest of the series. Payton in the Poole squad leaves the Celtics with only one defender to chase after Curry, and we need to stop this dialogue by saying that Curry is some kind of weak link. He is small, yes, but he is a good defender. You are not going to put buckets on the cakewalk.

Even when Poole is playing, Payton provides perimeter support. In Game 1, Poole entered the game for Draymond. Replacing the team’s best defender with the worst is a bright red hunting license for Boston. In Game 2, Peyton came in next to Poole and Green also remained on the court. That keeps Golden State defending in the fight.

Payton and Green could be a threatening duo. Watch here as Payton pushes Tatum before Green flies to the switch, a dose of pressure leading to recycling and Curry 3 on the other end.

Payton’s most pivotal stretch came in the second quarter. After the Warriors scored just four points per minute outside of Curry, with Poole remaining the sole creator, Payton dropped to 6:57 with Golden State falling five. They immediately went to a 10-0 streak, which included the above sequence as well as the one below, where Payton runs to the floor and settles into a gap along the baseline.

This kind of buckets are huge. Boston’s half court defense is a nightmare to score. Golden State wants to get as many transition opportunities as it can. Turnovers create these opportunities and Payton creates turnovers. Prior to his injury, the Warriors generated 3.3 more turnovers per 100 games with Payton on the floor.

In total, the Celtics made six upset in the first half of Payton. It directly caused only one of them, but in some its impact, even to a large extent, is intangible. Peyton, like Green, triggers the Golden State defense solely with his presence. Here he blocks Brown and forces a wrong pass.

The good thing about Payton’s injury is that it was not an area that prevented him from preparing. Kerr told reporters that Peyton was on the field three weeks ago “going through strong defensive slides and sprints and one-on-one throughout the field without using his left hand” and you saw this level of preparation when he was immediately given 25 minutes of action, above average in the playoffs before injury.

What worried Kerr was whether Payton could stretch his left arm to shoot. It did not look great when Peyton fired back two free throws, but then buried a corner 3, which is so vital to Golden State’s attack not only to keep a reasonable distance, but to make Boston pay when inevitably collapse. Curry, as it happened here:

“I know it was difficult for him, he missed the first two free throws, and then he got in there and knocked down those three, having very few basketballs from that Memphis series, it just shows who he is,” Green said. said about Peyton. “That’s why he’s here, though. Most kids can’t step into this situation, but the GP, he’s tough and he’s built the right way and he went up and gave us a few good minutes tonight.”

Good minutes can be derogatory. I would call them wonderful. And going forward, there will be a lot more available for Payton to make his mark in this series.

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