This series between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets has been nothing less than a dog fight. It’s been a lot of back and forths and close games with each team protecting home court. Game 5 was an impressive win for the Warriors but it came at the expense of their star forward, Kevin Durant as he suffered a right calf strain and is ruled out for Game 6. With their “Strength in Numbers” mantra the Warriors now have to look at their bench for guys to step up which poses a huge opportunity for Alfonzo McKinnie.
McKinnie’s minutes throughout the season have been sporadic and scarce in this series. Averaging 8.4 minutes, he has seen minimal playing time. However, Coach Steve Kerr still calls his number, which means with Durant missing time, there will be a lot more floor time for McKinnie.
Throughout the season, he has shown the ability to knock down open jumpers. On a bunch of occasions, the two-year forward has found himself open off of attention created by others. Especially in the left corner three locations which seem to be his favorite spot in which he shot 43.2% during the regular season.
Durant’s scoring contributions have been prevalent throughout this playoff run and without him, the Warriors will have a big void to fill. Not to mention, this team lacks consistent three-point shooting outside out of Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson. Guys like Andre Iguodala, Quinn Cook (who may or may not get time), and McKinnie are their next best shooters. With the brunt of attention on Curry and Thompson, McKinnie will get a lot of those similar looks and it’s a must that he knocks them down if they’re going to be successful.
Another area where he can have a big impact is on the boards. Throughout the five games of this series, the team who has won the rebounding battle has won the game. In Houston, Chris Tucker tore the Warriors up on the offensive glass and that can’t happen if Golden State is going to have any chance of winning.
McKinnie is long, very athletic and capable of grabbing rebounds to help his team out. Coach Kerr is very aware of the potential that his young player possesses and he gave McKinnie some high praise during their last series (via Scott Osler of the San Franciso Chronicle):
“Zo has been great these first four games,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He has the athleticism to not only hang in an NBA playoff game, but even to stand out in a playoff game. He gets a lot of offensive rebounds. He’s good defensively. He’s smart. And I thought he gave us huge minutes.”
For McKinnie its not just about his athleticism but more about his heart and hustle to go after it. Players tend to be lazy at times when it comes to rebounding and forget about boxing out and McKinnie does a great job of exploiting that.
Alfonzo McKinnie = offensive rebound extraordinarie pic.twitter.com/d8dPSHUSHw
— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 1, 2019
Coach Kerr goes in depth about rebounding in today’s NBA and how McKinnie takes advantage (via Drew Shiller of NBC Sports):
“He happens to be playing in an era, frankly, where nobody boxes out,” Kerr explained. “Shot goes up — and in every game that I watch on League Pass, our own games — shot goes up and all the eyes just go up to the ball and follow the ball and nobody turns and boxes out.”
“Alfonzo does a great job of just finding those seams and running right past people and going up and getting rebounds, getting us extra possessions.”
Even his teammate is fully aware of what he can do for their team. Thompson commented on his rebounding ability as well:
“Oh, man, his ability to rebound at the ‘2’ guard spot is huge for us,” guard Klay Thompson said. “He creates so many extra possessions. He made a huge floater tonight, some big, big putbacks, and what a season he’s had.”
That same tenacious mentality has to be there in Houston for Game 6. Not just on the offensive boards but on the defensive side of things as well. Houston can kill you on extra possessions so the Warriors have to limit that.
McKinnie is going to see a lot more playing time in Game 6 and I believe he can be an x-factor for this Warriors team. He can knock down open shots and use his athletic ability to get the little things done. Confidence and hard work will be key. Playing timid won’t get the job done. If McKinnie can be aggressive and confident on this big stage, the Warriors will have a good chance of closing the series out in Houston.