The Golden State Warriors beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy, and the trouble came in a disturbingly familiar scenario: a big lead going into the fourth quarter melts away, almost all the way to defeat.
It’s happened several times over the last few weeks for the Dubs, and if they don’t figure this out soon this habit will turn into a real problem before the second round gets a few games old.
The odd thing is, the answer is probably sitting right there on the Warriors’ bench–but for some reason Steve Kerr is refusing to resort to that solution. The solution’s name is David Lee.
Lee has been the odd man out in this year’s magic carpet ride for the Warriors. Mostly, he’s been a good soldier about it, and the results have borne out his patience with his situation.
But now the Warriors have developed a real, and persistent, problem: they’re blowing big leads late in the game, and today it almost bit them big time. Eventually, opponents are going to break through and take one of these games from the Dubs; if he’d had a little more time, Anthony Davis might have made it happen all by himself Saturday afternoon. And the heart of the matter is this: after building the big leads the first three quarters of these recent games, the Warriors have stopped scoring in the fourth quarter.
That’s where Lee comes in. Or rather, he would and should come in, but so far Kerr has not opted to go that route–and I think that’s a mistake. Yes, Lee has long been a whipping boy for being bad defensively, but that’s not a problem once you’ve built a big lead; if you go into the 4th up by twenty, you can trade baskets the rest of the way and still win. But the Warriors haven’t even been doing that; their fourth quarter offense has been dreadful lately. Lee could help that; despite other deficiencies, he has always been a good scorer, especially down low on a team that often lacks reliable inside scoring. Plus he’s a veteran; Lee is more likely to keep cool in the face of a comeback bid than young players like Harrison Barnes or Justin Holiday (or the young and sometimes hot-headed Draymond Green). Get that big lead and then bring Lee in to be a consistent scorer the rest of the way, and the Dubs should be able to have some more relaxed moments at the ends of games.
So what’s the problem? Why won’t Kerr put Lee in? Yes, theoretically, if you leave your best defensive unit on the floor, you should be able to shut down the opposition the rest of the way even if your own scoring is anemic. But filling up the basket is also a way to win, and remember, we’re talking about when the team has a big lead. Use the tools you have. Period.
It would be a shame if this great season for the Warriors ended prematurely–and stupidly–because Steve Kerr got a stiff neck at the wrong time and refused to use David Lee just because he’s already made up his mind about the guy. Keep an eye on this and see what develops.
Didn’t get a chance to note this before game time, so I’m updating at halftime…
Reports say that Lee is inactive for tonight’s game with a bad back. That would throw a wrench into everything above, but I don’t buy it. Lee hasn’t been doing enough to have hurt himself. This sounds like cover for the fact that Kerr simply does not want to play Lee. I’m hoping that does not turn out to be a mistake; we’ll learn the answer going forward, to be sure.
Edited 4/20/15 8:53 PM PDT.