In an NBA Finals game.
For most teams, the question would be academic. How many 13th men matter – in any game, let alone now, when rotations tighten?
But Golden State – with a motto of “strength in numbers – could easily use any of its 13 healthy and eligible players tonight. One must be deactivated with Green forced to occupy an active-list spot.
An injured Kevon Looney is a lock to fill one spot on the inactive list. Who gets the other? James Michael McAdoo was inactive in Games 1-3, but he played multiple stints in Game 4 and drew praise from Steve Kerr. Brandon Rush was inactive in Game 4, but he could start Game 5.
If Rush starts, the Warriors will add to a record they already hold.
They’ve already used 13 players in the first half of a Finals game this year – more than any team in at least the last twenty years (as far back as NBA.com records date). Rush, who played late in each of the three routs that started the series, would make it No. 14.
Counting only first-half contributors better eliminates garbage time, which has been aplenty in this series. Golden State is actually counting on these players when the game is undecided.
Here’s the number of players used in the first half of a Finals game by each team in the last 20 years:
Golden State would be better off with Green. It goes without saying: Teams are better with their best players.
But depth helps, and the Warriors have historic amounts of it.
They just have to figure out which parts of it to deploy tonight.