By: Jesse Taylor
Reader’s Note: Beginning December 8, WarriorsWorld is spending nearly two weeks examining the play of David Lee, easily the most polarizing player on the Warriors. We are providing an unbiased look by watching David Lee, and only David Lee, on both ends of the floor for a stretch of games ending with the Lakers at Oracle Arena on December 22. Our fourth installment of “The David Lee Watch” follows the matchup at Orlando on December 14.
This was an ugly one that won’t do Warriors fans much good to expound on. Let’s get right to the David Lee examination.
Festus Ezeli wins yet another tip, and Lee begins the game being guarded by Nikola Vucevic. Lee’s first action comes on the second possession and involves a pass to Klay Thompson. Lee gets a little lazy and tosses the ball at Klay’s knees, and he then has to bend down before firing off an open three. It’s no good.
On defense, Lee is helping off Vucevic. He keeps Jameer Nelson from getting in the lane, but no one rotates to Vucevic, who drills an open jumper. Lee’s outside shot continues to work for him as he drops an 18-footer to make it 2-2. The next time down he passes up an open jumper to get in the lane, but forces a difficult right-handed shot that misses. But he keeps working, grabs the offensive rebound and gets to the basket for a layup.
With the Magic up 11-8, Lee forces another shot and is blocked by three Magic players at once. It’s obvious opposing teams are watching film on Lee and know he does not use a pump fake when he gets inside. A coach really needs to tell him to use one once in a while. He does it on his outside shots, so he does actually know what a pump fake is.
Lee has a rare defensive block-out lapse, forgetting to put a body on Vucevic, who snags a rebound, but the possession ends in a Magic turnover. You can tell he’s upset at himself for the rebound lapse, and is now making an extra effort on his block outs over the next few possessions.
Lee’s jumper continues to fall and he pulls the Warriors to 11-10 with 4:42 left in a low scoring first quarter. He makes a nice effort on the other end as he blocks out Vucevic, then after seeing where the ball is headed, moves over to Andrew Nicholson and gets rebounding possession on him.
He loses the ball and turns it over on the next offensive possession, but on the other end continues to play solid help defense. At this point, it appears as if Lee is the only player on the Warriors who remembered to bring his game to Amway Arena. He and Carl Landry work to get three straight offensive rebounds off each other’s misses, with Lee grabbing two and scoring on the second to make it 15-12 Magic. Lee has 8 of the Warriors 12 points along with 6 rebounds.
His strong defense end as he doesn’t recover on a Nicholson post move. Lee went for an inside fake, and as Nicholson turned inside towards the basket, Lee for some reason stood there and didn’t make a move to distract his shot. Lee checks out with 1:36 left and the Magic up 17-12.
With no Lee, Steph Curry or Klay on the floor, it gets even uglier as the Warriors fall behind 14-25 before all three of them check back in at the 10:34 mark of the second quarter.
After getting his shot blocked, Lee stays with it, grabbing a rebound and scoring to make it 16-25. Lee finally misses a jumper and the Magic extend the lead 29-16. This has all the signs of a let down game for the Warriors. Only Lee is playing well so far. He does something small coming down the court on offense, screening off Jarrett Jack’s defender, and Jack takes advantage, quickly hitting a jumper.
Lee misses another jumper that would have cut it to five, and the Magic counter with a three to make it a 10-point lead. Lee is involved in the next three sequences; scoring on a nice pick-and-roll with Curry, missing another open jumper, but then pulling a Manu Ginobili and Euro-stepping to get passed Nelson for a slick right-handed fast-break layup.
This cuts the lead to five, but after a Magic basket, Lee is called for a moving screen. The next time down, his shot is again blocked by multiple Magic players, leading to a Magic 3-pointer that extends the lead back up to 10. Lee hits two free throws to end a 15-2 Magic run. But the Magic score again and take a 51-35 lead into the half.
Lee continues to struggle with his jumper to open the third and the game begins to get very hard to watch. The lead stretches to 61-46 with 6:16 left in the third. Curry and Lee have 30 of the Warriors’ 46 points. Shots begin to fall and Curry steps up his game and the Warriors cut the lead to 63-54. But two sloppy plays by Klay and Jack allow the Magic to make it 69-54. Then Klay misses two shots and it’s 72-54. That should pretty much do it, folks.
Lee sits with 2:34 left in the third, then comes back to open the fourth. He hits two quick shots, and even though they are down 16, Lee is still working very hard on the glass. While the Warriors can never make a game out of it, they kept it close enough for Mark Jackson to leave his key players in until 1:04 was left. We will see if this has any impact in Atlanta.
Lee is playing extremely well right now. He was the only one to show up to begin the game, and only Curry decided to join him once things got going. He finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds while playing solid defense most of the night. Vucevic posted 12 points and 17 rebounds, but those numbers didn’t come at the expense of bad play by Lee.
A key area Lee needs to improve is when he drives in the lane and goes up against defenders. His shot was blocked four times during the game. They don’t track league leaders in this category, but I have to imagine Lee is at the top of this list. Some Landry-style pump fakes could have resulted in a few more baskets for Lee.
Follow Jesse Taylor on Twitter: @GSW_JesseTaylor