For the third time in three games in the NBA Finals, Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga got himself onto the floor against the Celtics. And for the third time, it was for scant few useless minutes, now running his total floor time in the series to a whopping six minutes and 42 seconds.
Even before the Celtics mostly controlled the Warriors in Game 3 of the series back at TD Garden in Boston, one Western Conference assistant coach was not sure why Golden State’s Steve Kerr had not given Kuminga more run against an obviously younger, more athletic Boston team.
“Obviously, he is young, it is a tough stage to put a rookie on,” the coach told Heavy.com. “But he has handled himself well all year. He has shown he is not intimidated. He might make a mistake but would you rather have him out there making a mistake or (Nemanja) Bjelica? Or even Otto Porter? Give me the guy who gives you a chance to make some plays on both ends of the floor. Where is he? He has an explosive guy on that bench, he has to use him.”
That sentiment was echoed by former NBA coach and ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, who stated during the Game 3 broadcast that the Warriors are, “comparatively small and less athletic” than the Celtics, with someone like Kuminga being the obvious response.
Celtics Overwhelm Warriors on the Boards
Over the course of the season, and throughout the playoffs, the Celtics and Warriors appear pretty well-matched in terms of rebounding—Golden State was eighth in the regular season in rebounding percentage (51.0%) and the Celtics were a tick behind in 10th (50.9%). In the first two games of the series, too, the Celtics did not exactly dominate on the boards, with the teams tied in rebounding in Game 1 (39-39) and Boston one ahead in Game 2 (43-42).
But in Game 3, with Draymond Green ineffective, Kevon Looney playing limited minutes and Boston’s Robert Williams (battling a knee injury) having his best game in more than two weeks, the Celtics hammered Golden State on the boards, 47-31. On a night that saw both teams shoot about the same, percentage-wise, the rebounding was the key.
Every Celtics starter had at least six rebounds, and Grant Williams had five off the bench. Andrew Wiggins and Looney had seven each for the Warriors, but no one else had more than four rebounds.
Media Pushing for Kuminga Minutes
Kuminga, of course, would not singlehandedly fix the Warriors’ rebounding. But he would help the Warriors match Boston’s athleticism, and hopefully give the team a jolt of energy.
It was clear that the idea of more playing time for Kuminga had some significant support. From veteran San Francisco columnist Ron Kroichick:
Bay Area anchor Chris Bolton concurred, tweeting, “Ik Kuminga is a rookie but the Warriors could really use some athleticism on the floor
Warriors writer and podcaster Joe Viray noted that, for athleticism, Kuminga is “the only one off that bench who fits that profile.”
And former colleague Micah Adams of the Sporting News wrote, “Warriors need to roll the dice with Kuminga in the rotation.”
Kuminga, of course, is a 19-year-old rookie and it could be argued that if Kerr’s championship hopes rest on him, the Warriors are in trouble. But they need some springy, live legs to keep up with Boston. Kuminga’s got them.