Warriors win big with small adjustment against Lakers
Kerr leans into speed over size, and it works (again)
Despite what some corners of the internet would lead you to believe, it turns out coach Steve Kerr may know a thing or two about basketball after all. In a stunning 19-point comeback against the might Los Angeles Lakers last night, Kerr’s delicate lineup tinkering paid big dividends.
It’s a different kind of “going small” compared to benching Andrew Bogut in favor of Andre Iguodala, but Kerr used a similar judo and solved a big problem by employing a relatively small tweak.
Though it was a far cry from the drastic move of bumping a struggling Kelly Oubre to the bench, the Golden State Warriors may have discovered a valuable new wrinkle for their approach to maximizing him. For most of the season, Kerr has taken Wiggins out early in the first quarter (generally leaving with James Wiseman), and then brought him back in to bridge the end of the first quarter and then open the second quarter with the bench unit.
Last night, it was Oubre that took that job, subbing out midway through the first quarter, and then returning to open the second quarter with the bench mob. Look at the gameflow from last night, as cautious as you have to be looking at a single game, or a single lineup within that one game, this worked.
Some of this may be due to the bench simply being a better fit for Oubre’s game. As Anthony Slater of The Athletic points out, Oubre has literally crashed into Curry on multiple occasions this season, and the more simplified play style (without Curry’s gravity warp) may be the key to unlocking Oubre. Or it could just be that the bench unit has been better overall than the starting lineup. Those bumps at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters in the image above are something we’ve come to expect.
In his post game press conference, Kerr said, "[i]t worked out, and we'll probably do it again next game." So expect this experiment to stay - for now.
Remember, Oubre is still having a very down year, he’s scoring at one of the lowest rates of his career, and shooting at the absolute worst. If he can find even the faintest scent of his old game in these bench minutes, it would be a tremendous asset to the Warriors.
Kerr is juggling a delicate machine here. With Curry so clearly the sharp edge of the sword, Kerr’s offense has to balance the weight of his impact, versus dulling the blade against opposition that is increasingly devoted towards Curry.
Seriously, look at the attention stuck on Curry here.
Here’s the entire play in real time, but notice that it’s not just Schroder, but James and Harrell with eyes only for Curry.
Of course, Curry still gets his. He finished with 26 points and 7 assists, a pedestrian night by his standards; but Curry came on strong late, pouring in eight points and two assists in the final six minutes of the game - none sweeter than this play though: