Reader’s Note: Beginning December 8, WarriorsWorld spent 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. This is the ninth and final installment of “The David Lee Watch.”
Written by: Jesse Taylor
This is it. The last game in “The David Lee Watch.”
With so many storylines in what was arguably the NBA’s best game at the one-third mark of the season, it’s hard not to write more about the Lakers’ 118-115 OT comeback victory over the Warriors. But this all about David Lee, so let’s get to it.
This was probably Lee’s weakest performance of the nine “David Lee Watch” games. But was it a bad game? My first thought was “yes” due to some defensive lapses and lack of scoring down the stretch. But let’s go to the notes before I determine anything…
Just when hot starts were becoming the norm for Lee, he throws the ball away after grabbing an offensive rebound on the Warriors’ first possession. This leads to a fast break layup for the Lakers. He is then stripped by Pau Gasol, which leads to Kobe Bryant scoring on another fast break. Next, Lee plays poor help defense and it leaves Dwight Howard wide open for a layup, but he fails to convert.
All of this took place in less than three minutes. The old David Lee may have let this affect him the rest of the game. But this isn’t the old David Lee. It’s the new and improved so-called “White Chris Webber” version (by the way, I hate this nickname for too many reasons to list).
At the 9:30 mark, Lee drills an open 15-footer from the baseline when Howard doesn’t close out. Playing man-up defense on Gasol, Lee positions himself well and holds his ground, forces a missed shot.
With a 7-4 lead, Lee crashes the offensive boards and nicely tips the ball out to Klay Thompson for an open three. But Klay misses.
Later, Lee takes advantage of the smaller Metta World Peace, posting him up and driving towards the middle for a right-handed flip and a 10-7 lead.
Metta takes it right back at Lee, easily converting a layup.
Feeling like the referees are being biased after two questionable calls on Festus Ezeli and Klay, Lee loudly implores the officials to “give us a shot” several times. This took place at the 5:23 mark of the first quarter and the game was actually being called pretty poorly both ways up to that point. Maybe Lee’s pleas actually had an impact and maybe they didn’t; regardless, the officials definitely had some sort of wake-up call because things greatly improved from this point on.
Lee misses a jumper over Gasol, then Metta takes it to Lee again; driving and hitting a short step-back jumper over him for a 13-10 Lakers lead. Lee gets his jumper to fall, hitting an open 17-footer after Gasol helped out on Steph Curry.
At the 4:33 mark of the first quarter, Lee had six points and six rebounds. He doesn’t add any other stats before checking out with 1:27 left. In addition to those numbers, he also had two costly turnovers and several poor defensive plays.
Also note that he grabbed six rebounds in the game’s first 5-and-a-half minutes and just five over his remaining 40 minutes on the court.
Lee checks back into the game at the 9:34 mark of the second with the Warriors trailing 33-36. He quickly goes right at Howard one-on-one and experiences a “get that weak shit outta here!” moment when Howard sends his shot into the stands. The Warriors bring it in bounds and Lee misses an 18-footer. Not a great possession for the hero of our story.
In a sign of things to come for Jordan Hill, Lee backs off to help on Howard and Hill drains a jumper. The next time down, Lee drives the lane and kicks it out to Jarrett Jack who hits an open three. 36-38.
Lee is stopping Peace about as well as Gandhi right now (you know, because Gandhi loved Peace and never stopped it – too much of a stretch?), with Metta viewing Lee like a freeway, driving on him every chance he gets. He forces a foul on Lee and hits 1-2 free throws to cut the Warriors lead to 40-41.
Metta can’t stop Lee on the other end either, though, and Lee takes it to him for a nice running hook and a 45-40 Warriors lead.
Following a Lakers run, Lee does great work on the glass to keep Warrior possessions alive. At the 4:14 mark, he tips the ball off the backboard and Landry grabs the offensive rebound. But the Warriors fail to convert.
Lee has to help Curry on a Steve Nash and Hill pick-and-roll. Klay rotates over, but it’s too late as Nash finds Hill and he scores over Klay. After a Jack jumper ties the game at 49, Lee battles Hill for a defensive rebound on a Metta missed three. Lee wins the battle.
After Klay hits a three to give the Warriors a 52-49 lead, Lee gets in great defensive position on Gasol and draws the charging foul.
A minute later, Lee spins inside to his left on Gasol and finishes with his left hand to give the Warriors a 59-49 lead with 1:36 to go in the half. He pushes the lead to 12 with a 17-foot jumper over Gasol. He gives the Warriors one last possession by getting his hands in front of Kobe, distracting him enough to force a missed layup.
Lee scores six points with two rebounds in the quarter (12 and 8 for the half), playing much better than he did in the first. His efforts on the glass were strong (even when he didn’t get the rebound he allowed his teammates to), he hit some big shots and he balanced out some bad defense on Metta with some strong plays against Gasol and Kobe.
After Bryant opens the half with a turnaround jumper to cut the lead to six, Lee comes right back with a 20-footer over Gasol to make it 63-55. Lee goes quiet for the next few minutes before making a nice grab off a low pass from Curry and getting fouled on his drive to the basket. He hits both free throws for a 68-61 lead with 7:37 left in the third.
Lee finally plays good defense on Metta and forces a turnover. At the 5:44 mark, he gives the Warriors a 10-point lead when he pump fakes to get by Metta and impressively scores over Gasol.
He has a defensive mental lapse when Kobe grabs on offensive rebound and Lee doesn’t move on one side of the key, leaving Gasol all alone on the other side. Kobe finds the open Gasol before Lee finally makes a move and is forced to foul him. Gasol converts the shot and free throw to cut Golden State’s lead to seven at 73-66 with 5:03 left in the third.
Lee goes quiet again, missing a jumper and grabbing just one rebound (defensive) before checking out with 2:24 left in the quarter.
He goes for six points and two rebounds for the second consecutive quarter, but was a non-factor for most of his 9-plus minutes on the floor. A pretty average quarter, but based on his play recently, I’d say it was below average for him.
He begins the fourth quarter with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Knowing that he finished the game (including overtime) with 20 points and 11 rebounds makes me afraid to type the rest of this recap, but here we go.
I will say this: Without Lee on the floor to finish the third and open the fourth, the Warriors were struggling to grab defensive rebounds. However, Ezeli and Andris Biedrins were also on the bench, leaving Landry and Draymond Green to perform the battles down low on their own.
Lee checks in with 10:07 left in the fourth and never sits again. He misses a jumper then watches as Hill hits one over him. 90-82 with 9:23 left. It gets worse for Lee as Curry secures a defensive rebound, but Lee thinks he’s on the Lakers and knocks the ball out of Curry’s hands and out of bounds. On the next play he fails to find Hill as Nash misses a running jumper, and wouldn’t you know it, Hill grabs the offensive rebound and dunks it in. 90-84. Uh-oh.
Lee and Hill are battling down low again, and Hill grabs an offensive rebound off a Kobe missed three. Ezeli blocks Hill’s follow-up shot out of bounds to save Lee.
Leading 95-92 and needing a big basket, Lee forces it as he tries to score over both Howard and Gasol. His miss is followed by a Kobe three and it’s 95-95 with 4:28 left.
Lee doesn’t fold and makes a play he’s been doing a lot lately. He pump fakes Gasol to get around him and draws the help defense. He quickly finds an open Jack for a three that gives Golden State a 100-98 lead.
With the Warriors leading 102-98, Lee made what could have been a difference-making play. Ezeli slid over to play help defense and left Howard alone in the middle of the lane. Lee quickly moved over to foul Howard and made sure he didn’t convert the “and-1.” Smart play because based on averages, the Warriors should have come away from this with a 3- or 4-point lead. But surprisingly, Howard hits both free throws. 102-100 with 2:27 to go.
The Lakers take a 105-104 lead thanks to some porous defense by Curry. Lee’s only points of the fourth quarter are huge as he nails a step-back jumper with 44 seconds left to give the Warriors a 106-105 lead.
A Metta three and a Jack jumper later we’re going into OT tied at 108.
Lee was pretty non-existent in OT, making one bad play and one good. The bad? Down four with 3:41 left he forced a difficult shot over Gasol that had no chance of going in. The good? He took a dribble towards the lane before finding Klay on a nice back-door cut. Klay converted the jumper to make it a 2-point deficit with 2:03 left.
It wasn’t enough as the Warriors lost 115-118.
Man, not only was this a tough game to sit through as a Warriors fan. This was a really tough game to judge Lee on. If I’m judging on a curve based on his play this season, I’d have to put this into the “bad game” category. Otherwise I would call it an average game.
He forced a few shots and played bad defense in crunch time, and this hurt the Warriors during a time that they needed him to step up and stop a Lakers run. His lack of scoring in the fourth quarter and OT wasn’t that distressing when you look at the way Jack and Harrison Barnes were playing. Curry and Klay also made some shots, so Lee’s non-production wasn’t a huge issue. More concerning was his lack of rebounding, specifically when faced against Jordan Hill who was beating him to balls off the glass more than any other player in quite some time. And Hill was doing this against Lee during a key fourth quarter Lakers run.
CSN’s Matt Steinmetz commented several times that Lee did not hit any clutch shots. But his jumper with 44 seconds left was an obvious clutch shot. The issue was that he didn’t hit enough of them, forcing and missing several shots. He still shot 50% for the game (9-18 FG), so it wasn’t like he had an awful shooting night.
But based on what he’s been doing lately, I just wish he would have done more. And I think that’s how I’ll summarize this game for Lee: he should have done more.