OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors beat the Miami Heat 111-103 in a game that featured the Warriors versatility and resourcefulness. After a first half spent going back and forth with the Heat, the Warriors went with something unusual, yet familiar, to get separation.
When Golden State was down 1-2 in last season's Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, they used a tactic few if anyone saw coming: Center Andrew Bogut guarded Tony Allen, a perimeter player who can't shoot. On Monday night the Warriors harkened back to that when, in the second half, Bogut started out guarding Miami rookie wing Justise Winslow, a 22 percent 3-point shooter. The Warriors built a nine-point advantage before Miami finally conceded and subbed Winslow out for Gerald Green.
"It was just an idea we had at halftime," interim Warriors coach Luke Walton said about the tactic. The Warriors had expected Miami center Hassan Whiteside to play, and were caught a bit off guard when Whiteside was declared out with a knee issue and Chris Bosh started at center. Instead of continuing to have their rim protector chase Bosh out to the 3-point line, they lessened the workload while shrinking Miami's space.
"No, we didn't discuss that pregame at all," said Bogut, who also guarded Luol Deng. "We didn't really know Whiteside was inactive before the game. So we ran out there and he wasn't in warm-ups so, realized he wasn't playing. And obviously Bosh is on the perimeter a whole lot more now so, just something we've done before with Tony Allen and a couple other guys. We went to it, and it worked."
Freezing out Winslow put Miami in a bind. They aren't exactly replete with wing defense and he's an ace wing defender. Taking him out compromises so much of what they hope to do.
Not only was the tactic effective, but it also highlighted a difference between the Warriors and other teams. Golden State boasts the kind of versatility that makes them Tony Allen tactic proof. Their essential players can't be allowed wide open 3-pointers, even if stretches of the 2015 NBA Finals might have stoked some doubts.
Golden State's superior versatility couldn't have happened without Draymond Green's rapid evolution. Green, who had another great game (22 points, 12 boards, six assists) on Monday night, ended his rookie season as a 20.9 percent 3-point shooter. Long ago, he was in Justise Winslow's place, sans the security that comes with being a lottery pick.
On what changed for the now 42 percent 3-point shooter, Green said, "Lot of hard work. Countless hours in the gym, just continuing to work and believe in yourself, knowing that it's not easy. If it was easy everybody could do it."
Green didn't want to be the kind of player who received the Tony Allen treatment and he resolved to be someone who shoots freely when open. "After my rookie year I just told myself, if I'm not going to make it in this league, I'm going to go down playing like me."
Now that Draymond Green plays like himself, the Warriors rarely go down. This wasn't their most impressive win, and they needed help from the bench to get there. Stephen Curry, though he scored 31 points, ended the night minus-3, his first game of the season that ended in a minus.
Still, a modest win is a win, and this one was a reminder that versatility often prevails. Golden State's power forward can guard centers and point guards. He can also shoot 3s and dish off fast breaks. The majority of the roster can switch onto other positions in a pinch. We're in mid-January and the Warriors have lost twice. If this level of versatility was easy, everybody could beat it.