SAN FRANCISCO -- Prior to Thursday night's tipoff for Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced Otto Porter Jr., Andre Iguodala and Gary Payton II all were available and able to return from their injuries.
"I think all three can contribute, for sure," Kerr said to reporters.
The first two did, to varying degrees, and Payton was the only Warrior to not see any playing time in the Warriors' 120-108 collapse to the Boston Celtics.
Porter, who missed the Warriors' last two games to left foot soreness, was the second player to enter the game off the bench and looked healthy as ever right away. He grabbed two quick rebounds near the end of the first quarter and opened the second draining his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer. In fact, he made his first four shot attempts, all which came from beyond the arc.
In over 24 minutes off the bench, Porter scored 12 points while going 4-for-5 from the field, adding four rebounds and two steals. But he also was part of the Warriors' historic blown lead in the fourth quarter, with several defensive miscues.
Jaylen Brown blew right by him early in the quarter, allowing an easy alley-oop to center Robert Williams II as the Celtics began to gain momentum. He then lost Brown on an open corner 3-pointer, and later overhelped and left Payton Pritchard uncontested in the same corner for a 3-pointer that brought the game to within two points for Boston.
He of course isn't alone in the Warriors' defense getting out of whack when it mattered most, but it's why he had a rare bad night in plus-minus, finishing as a minus-18. The Warriors clearly need Porter's shot-making ability, rebounding and basketball IQ. Now they need him, and a handful of others, to be on the same page defensively.
Iguodala had missed the Warriors' last 12 games to a lingering neck issue and entered the first quarter to a rousing ovation at Chase Center. He found Porter for his first 3-pointer of the night on a beautiful assist and then quickly made his first shot attempt shortly thereafter. Iguodala also made his first and only 3-point attempt with six seconds left in the third quarter to give the Warriors a 92-78 lead.
In 12 minutes off the bench, Iguodala scored seven points, went 3-for-4 from the field and dished three assists in his first game since April 24. The 38-year-old even showed some bounce and got up for an easy dunk in the fourth quarter.
"He's got Finals experience. Gets us settled down. He's a great defender. I thought Andre did a really good job out there," Kerr said after the loss.
However, five seconds after that big 3-pointer, Iguodala pulled the ultimate no-no. He inexplicably fouled Celtics guard Derrick White with only one second left in the third quarter. White hit both free throws, bringing Boston's deficit to 12. The last thing you want to do is end a quarter on a poor note, especially going into the fourth, and the Warriors did exactly that after Iguodala's foul.
Golden State Warriors
The Celtics then opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, making it a three-point game before Iguodala's dunk. An ugly Iguodala turnover was part of that Celtics run, right after Steph Curry re-entered the game.
Kerr opened the fourth quarter with Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Porter and Draymond Green. With Iguodala and Green on the floor together, the Celtics didn't even both guarding them. It might as well have been 3-on-5.
That can't happen against a team as great as Boston, let alone in the Finals.
Green was happy with the contributions the Warriors received from Porter and Iguodala and is putting the onus on himself being better going forward after missing 10 shots, turning the ball over three times and fouling out in the 12-point loss.
"It was huge," Green said of getting the two veterans back. "They both gave us great minutes. Now it's on me to play better. But to have those guys back -- Otto played really well. He shot the ball really well. Andre played well also in the minutes that he had.
"So they did their part. I just have to do mine."
Payton was dressed like he was ready to play but was stuck to the sidelines with his fractured left elbow wrapped up. Was him dressing up more gamesmanship than anything else? It's so hard to ask of anything from the left-hander, and the Warriors have been extremely mum on how much he can actually shoot the ball.
His return feels more like a "break glass in case of emergency" situation, though his presence alone on defense could make a big impact.
The Warriors' two days off until their next game should give Porter and Iguodala ample time for recovery. They're back, and it appears that's the case the rest of the way. Both had positives stretches, with a lot of room for improvement starting Sunday night in a gigantic Game 2 for the Warriors.