The Lakers got the best Christmas present they could possibly wish for in this game against the Warriors: the absence of Kobe Bryant. Could there be any more stark indication of what a bad player Kobe is now? Utterly inefficient. Utterly selfish. A willful and unrepentant destroyer of his team’s offensive chemistry. An indifferent destroyer of his team’s defense (he hasn’t competed on that end in years). It was fascinating to watch the Lakers play like a team on both ends, and I for one was amazed at how the worst defensive team in the league could look for one night like one of the best. Maybe they are one of the best, with Ed Davis in for Boozer, and Wayne Ellington in for Kobe? Wesley Johnson is no slouch — ask Harrison Barnes.
I’m not willing to put full blame on Steve Kerr for this loss, as sometimes bad teams show up, and good teams don’t. The Lakers were clearly very excited to play without Kobe, and the Warriors just as clearly didn’t match their energy or focus.
However, I did feel extreme frustration that Kerr didn’t simplify the game when the Laker’s active D made a mishmash of the Warriors’ motion offense. It’s particularly frustrating because the Warriors have one of the best pick and roll point guards ever created by the maker, and now that Bogut is out, some centers who can actually collaborate with him. Ezeli has been tremendously effective in PNR the last two games. We all know now what Lee and Speights can do in PNR and PNP.
I think a good Nellieball coach would have changed things up at halftime at the very least, and come out firing with a faster pace, and a Curry-dominant high pick and roll offense. And guess what? That’s exactly what Kerr did, and Curry went nuts, and the Warriors closed to 10. But then Kerr just as quickly went away from it…
I particularly hated the way that David Lee was used on the second unit. Nothing could be clearer than that Kerr has been anxiously awaiting the return of the one true triangle player on the roster, and is absolutely determined to play triangle when he’s on the floor. In other words, Lee is right back to where he was with Lacob’s other two rookie coaches, playing most of his minutes in the wrong system.
It was an absolute disaster last night. The Warriors ran around like panicked ants, and the Lakers disrupted every action. It will probably get better, but it’s still a bad coaching choice. It’s simply not the right system for this team.
If Lee is to be played at center on the second unit, as he mostly was last night, it is absolutely ridiculous for the Warriors to play anything other than pick and roll with Shaun Livingston and Lee. Livingston is creating much the same difficulty for the Warriors that Rondo now is for the Mavs — he’s completely unable to play off the ball as a spot up shooter, and is thus wrecking the Warriors spacing. It is far, far better to let Livingston run the offense with the ball in his hands, and far, far better to let him run pick and roll than it is to post him up: because David Lee is one of the best pick and roll centers in the NBA, if not the best, and conversely, he’s not a three point shooter who can space the floor when Livingston posts up.
Why not run Livingston/Lee PNR the whole time, Steve Kerr? Late in the game, after everything else had fallen apart, the Warriors ran it twice.
The first time, Lee rolled perfectly, Livingston passed perfectly, DUNK.
The second time, layup.
What’s not to like? I don’t get it.
Draymond Green: As great a player as Green has been for the Warriors the last two seasons, I’m not going to fault him for getting obliterated inside last night. But I do wonder if he was suffering from the exhaustion of having to battle bigger players night in and night out? And I wonder whether last night’s performance tells us anything about what Green’s true position might be?
Of course, it’s ridiculous to be asking these questions based on one performance.
Or is it?
Go back in the archives and try to find one game, home or away, in which a healthy David Lee was similarly eaten alive in his 10 year playing career. Just one game. In 10 seasons. One.
I took something away from Green’s performance last night. Just as I’ve taken something away from watching the Warriors double-team the post every time he’s matched up with one of the monsters of the West.
The Showcase: I will have some positive things to say about Harrison Barnes in part two of my ongoing Fantasy versus Reality review, as he has made some positive changes to his game from last season to this. I will also have some negative things to say, as the reaction to Barnes’ improvement has been typically overboard, and I feel compelled to push back against notions that he’s now a “borderline All Star,” as I have been reading in some places, or even an above average small forward in the league.
Is Wesley Johnson an above average small forward? Because he owned Barnes last night. And is very objectively, night in and night out, a far better defender than the guy who recently got torched to a crisp by Kevin Durant. Which I happen to think is an important characteristic in a small forward.
This was one of the few games all season in which nearly every one of Barnes’ shots was contested. His field goal percentage reflected that.
Justin Holiday: If there was anything positive about last night, it was the continued emergence of this young man. The Warriors are desperate for shooting on the second unit, and it looks like Holiday can provide it. And not just three point shooting, but an all-around floor game. He’s a very long and very good defender, and I love his hoops IQ. He looks like he belongs.
The question is, if he becomes a second unit regular, and Kerr remains determined to have one of Curry or Klay on the floor at all times, who sits? It would have to be either Iggy or Livingston, wouldn’t it?
I think the Warriors are already gagging on both contracts, or if not they soon will be, but the $12 million Iggy is still clearly a better player than the $5 million Livingston, is he not? We can all agree on that, can’t we?
And isn’t Iggy just as capable of initiating the offense as Livingston? The assist totals would seem to indicate that.
And if you’re going to play Livingston off the ball in a motion offense, as Kerr seems determined to do, is he in any way a better player than Holiday? Why would you ever choose Livingston over Holiday, if you’re determined to play a motion offense that de-emphasizes the point guard, like the triangle?
Now if you’re going to run pick and roll with David Lee, that’s another story. That’s where Livingston’s value to the second unit would become readily apparent.
Steve Kerr, Lacob’s Cube is calling.
Happy Holidays, everyone!