HOUSTON — On Sunday — the eve of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets — Golden State Warriors guard Nick Young said he had a dream. In that dream, he said, head coach Steve Kerr told him to “stay on guard. I want you to knock down a couple shots.”
When he went to shoot-around, Kerr — the real one — told Young, who had averaged 7.9 minutes per game this postseason, that he needed to “stay ready.”
When the Warriors signed Young, the hope was that he could provide some scoring punch off the bench, and he did just that on Monday, going 3-for-5 from three-point range as Golden State stole Game 1 of the conference finals on the road.
“I thought Nick’s minutes were important for us,” Kerr said. “He did a great job.”
Young spent over 15 minutes on the court on Monday, after coming into this season having only played in 15 of his 672 career NBA games in the playoffs.
Though Young played in the most games he has since his second season (80), the he averaged career lows field goal attempts (6.1 per game), points (7.3) and assists (0.5), as he was demoted to third-string shooting guard. He played the fewest minutes per game (17.4) that he has since his rookie season.
Yet, in the run-up to the series against Houston, Young — who signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal with Golden State after four years with the Lakers — got a lot of run from Kerr and his teammates.
“All three times we played them this year, he’s played well,” said Draymond Green last week. “He can make shots. He can make shots, especially with this team, he’s going to get open looks.”
In three games against the Rockets this season, he averaged 16.7 points, shot a blistering 69.2% from the field and hit 68.4% from three-point range.
As the Warriors climbed back from a 12-4 opening salvo from the Rockets on Monday, Stephen Curry found Young open for a 25-foot three by Young after a Chris Paul pull-up jumper with 2:25 to go.
“That’s, for a guy like me, a confidence booster,” Young said. “I don’t know how Steph found me right there, but that’s what happens when you play on a great team. They demand so much attention and they leave you with open shots.”
In fact, when Paul sagged off of Young on all three of his makes, he was going to help out another defender on the weak-side.
“Some games, some series, you make those mistakes and guys don’t make the shots,” Paul said. “But tonight, every time we did it, they made the shot.”
With 8:28 left in the first half, after Houston had tied things up at 35-35, once again, it was Young who made sure the Warriors kept pace, hitting his second three of the night, giving the Warriors a 38-35 lead.
When James Harden threw down a one-handed dunk with 26.5 seconds to go in the second quarter, it was Young’s three with 11.2 seconds left that tied things up at 56-56 going into the half.
“I thought he came in and really gave us a big boost,” Kerr said.