Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals had a dramatic ending that saw the Warriors narrowly edging out the Rockets to take a 2-0 lead in the series. Obviously, the story of the night was the play of Stephen Curry and James Harden. Both put up monster numbers for their teams before making some mistakes to end the game.
Yet as important as the stars were on the night, a role player was essential to Golden State's win: Andrew Bogut.
While Dwight Howard was a monster with 19 points and 17 rebounds, the Warriors center was just as influential, even if his numbers were not as flashy. His defense was excellent as usual, but he also made contributions on offense and anchored some of the Warriors' more productive five-man units. Let's take a closer look, to fully understand his impact on the game.
Bogut shut down the paint
With Bogut on the court, the Rockets had a really hard time scoring inside. Only 35 percent of their shots came within five feet of the basket, where they shot a decent, but unspectacular, 58 percent. When Bogut was on the bench, 50 percent of their attempts came close to the hoop and they shot a ridiculous 73 percent on those attempts. His five blocks don't even begin to show how important he was to the Warriors' interior defense.
Bogut took advantage of the fact that Howard has no range, which allowed him to deter penetration or change shots. Notice how he took a couple extra steps off Howard to protect the paint.
When James Harden saw Bogut coming over to help, he stopped. He hit the shot, but this means he isn't venturing to the rim and as a result doesn't draw fouls. In the 43 minutes Bogut has been on the court, The Beard has only been to the line six times.
Plays like that don't show up in the box score, but can change the game over time. Harden was brilliant all night, but by forcing him into step-back jumpers, the Warriors at least took one element of his game away.
In a one-point win, Bogut's contributions on the defensive end were huge.
Small but valuable offensive contributions
Bogut finished the game with 14 points on nine shots, four assists and two offensive rebounds. For a player who's only on the court to play defense, that's excellent. It's not surprising that the Warriors' best stretch was in the first half, when he scored 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting.
Bogut is opportunistic and won't force the issue trying to shoot, but he will make risky passes, as his four turnovers show. Still, that's a positive trade-off if he can also create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. In Game 2, he logged three of his assists with simple passes or hand-offs, but he also had this beautiful dime on a set play after a timeout.
Not a lot of seven-footers can be trusted to make pinpoint passes like that, but Bogut is one of them.
That efficient scoring and quality passing, combined with his typically great screens and offensive rebounding, made Bogut a plus on offense for the Warriors. When that happens, it's rare for them to lose.
Bogut won't ever be the dynamic scorer he was in his best season in Milwaukee, and won't put up the numbers expected from a former No. 1 overall draft pick. Yet it's undeniable he makes an impact during the minutes he's in the game, as proved by the fact that the Warriors outscored the Rockets by eight points when he was on the court. His subtle but real contributions are often the difference between a win and a loss.
Against a Rockets team that has a dominant center and loves shots near the rim, Bogut might be the most important player for Golden State after Curry. At least in Game 2, he proved to be up for the challenge and was one of the biggest reasons the series goes to Houston with his team up 2-0.