During Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors put together a very uninspiring effort through three quarters.
However, when power forward David Lee entered the game in the fourth quarter, things started to change.
Cleveland had built a 17-point advantage with just 12 minutes remaining, largely due to Stephen Curry being a non-factor for Golden State. Plus. Klay Thompson wasn’t able to repeat his Game 2 performance and carry the Warriors—not that 34 points was a fair expectation.
But Golden State’s problems stemmed from a lackluster night from the frontcourt.
Harrison Barnes had misfired on all eight shot attempts, and Draymond Green continued his series-long struggle. Andrew Bogut couldn’t stop Timofey Mozgov, and Festus Ezeli was simply decent off the bench.
So, likely in a last resort, Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to have Lee, a former All-Star turned deep reserve, check into the game. Though he’d managed just 12 minutes since the beginning of the Western Conference Finals, Lee nearly saved Golden State.
This is David Lee's world. Who saw this coming?
— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) June 10, 2015
The power forward tallied 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 13 minutes, helping the Warriors come within one point of the Cavaliers.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Lee was only the second player in league history to record that stat-line in 14 or fewer minutes of action.
Cleveland eventually won 96-91, but Golden State wouldn’t have been anywhere close to stealing a victory at Quicken Loans Arena without Lee. Most importantly for him, Kerr recognized—and rewarded—Lee’s effort:
#Warriors Coach Steve Kerr: "Yeah, you'll see more of David Lee."
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 10, 2015
Considering Game 3 marked the Warriors shot 40.0 percent or worse for only the fifth time in 100 combined regular season and playoff games, they certainly could use an offensive boost.
Lee provides a inside-out passing threat, which is a much-needed element to improve a currently stagnant offense. The Cavaliers have forced Golden State to run a strong majority of its possessions from half-court sets, and the Dubs haven’t efficiently countered that because of the issues up front.
Additionally, though Lee doesn’t offer much of a defensive presence, it’s not like Golden State is getting much on that end from Bogut anyway.
Kerr will likely utilize Lee instead of Ezeli in the second unit, but we’ll officially find out the plans on Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.
Down 2-1 in the series, the Warriors need a win—and perhaps Lee is the one part of solving their offensive woes.
Photo: USA Today Sports