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Warriors’ Patrick McCaw shows aggressiveness in fill-in start

In late September, during one of the first practices of training camp, assistant coach Willie Green called him “P-Nice” because the spindly rookie was unfazed against Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Over the past seven months, as he became the rare second-round draft pick to contribute in his first NBA season, McCaw made good on his new moniker. Open shots were ignored at the risk of hurting Golden State’s offensive flow. By that measure, McCaw experienced a bit of a breakthrough in Wednesday night’s Game 2 win over Portland. In the second quarter, after teammates encouraged him during a timeout to be more aggressive, he hit a three-pointer from the top of the arc and drove for a layup. McCaw finished with nine points, five rebounds, no turnovers and a plus-27 in 34 minutes, a stat line reminiscent of his mentor, Sixth Man of the Year candidate Andre Iguodala. Though McCaw can’t be expected to replicate the eight-time All-Star’s production, he is a more capable fill-in starter than when he spelled Durant in the first unit during the regular season. [...] the fact that he stayed prepared and stayed ready, that says a lot. Added McCaw: For my first (start in the playoffs), it was exciting — just knocking down a few shots, making the right play, playing good defense. The son of a high school basketball coach, McCaw, 21, has a grasp of the sport’s nuances. Unlike many rookies, who struggle with the speed of the NBA, he generally makes the right reads and thinks a play or two ahead. Two months ago, after Durant suffered a left knee injury at Washington, McCaw — a combo guard — plugged the hole at starting small forward. Instead of making significant strides in an expanded role, McCaw simply ate up minutes for the most part during those five-plus weeks Durant missed. McCaw’s averages in 20 regular-season starts — 6.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 23.4 minutes — were adequate given that he started alongside at least three All-Stars, but coaches wanted more. On Wednesday, three days after he logged just 23 seconds in Game 1, McCaw overcame a few early misses for perhaps his best all-around outing yet. In addition to protecting the ball and making three shots, he played solid defense on guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Midway through the third quarter, on a Lillard layup attempt, McCaw slid into the key for a highlight-worthy block. “That might have been the best game I’ve seen Pat play,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. The Warriors’ hope is that extended runs like Wednesday’s will prepare McCaw for more consistent minutes moving forward. After re-signing Durant and Curry this summer, Golden State will have little money left to bring back free agents such as Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark. McCaw, who has a two-year, minimum-salary deal, might be the Warriors’ third guard next season. In the third quarter Wednesday, after he drove past McCollum for a layup, McCaw barked at a nearby referee about a non-call. After more than half a year watching the player known as “P-Nice,” Green appreciated McCaw raising his voice. Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Warriors 110, Blazers 81

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