Before suffering their worst and most embarrassing loss of the season, the Golden State Warriors were playing well without David Lee.
The Warriors were 5-1 this season without Lee coming into the game against the New York Knicks. In most cases, without Lee this season, someone would step up in Lee’s place, whether it be Stephen Curry scoring more, Marreese Speights and Draymond Green having breakout games or Jermaine O’Neal finding the fountain of youth. Earlier in the season, someone would step up.
This was not the case on Sunday night because while Curry scored 32 points, no other Warrior had a good game besides Andre Iguodala as the Warriors fell to the Knicks, 89-84.
This game may have been the worst loss of the season against an Eastern Conference team. The Warriors remain in the sixth slot in the Western Conference with two tough games, starting Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. It has been reported that Lee and Andrew Bogut will not play tomorrow with Bogut not making the trip to Texas. This is a huge blow to the Warriors’ offense because Lee provides the team with a post presence and consistent scoring.
Lee averages almost 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. It is very difficult for the Warriors to make up for his efficiency on the offensive end without him in the lineup. Last season, they were much more equipped to deal with the loss of Lee, which they did in the postseason against the Denver Nuggets. They dealt with Lee’s injury by putting Harrison Barnes in as the power forward, where he absolutely flourished. They also had Green and Carl Landry giving them significant minutes at the four position off the bench.
This season, they do not have that capable backup four that can score double-digits per game like Landry provided last season. Barnes, who was so vital last season, has completely lost his confidence at the offensive end, settling for contested jumpers instead of driving to the basket. Speights and Green can play well at the offensive end in spurts but overall, they are nowhere as consistent as Lee.
Lee is one of the league-leaders in points in the paint, scoring in a variety ways, and hitting left and right-handed jump shots with the occasional dunk. He is equally capable with both hands and is a good free throw shooter. Lee can also hit his outside jumper with ease when he is on his game and is considered one of the top five power forwards in the NBA.
The Warriors will not miss Lee on the defensive end because he is one of the poorest defenders on the team. But with Bogut out for the foreseeable future, the Warriors have no depth in their frontcourt with an unhealthy Jermaine O’Neal and Speights in the starting lineup. Despite his defensive ineptitude, he is still one of the best plus-minus players in the NBA, so his offensive skills outweigh his defensive liabilities.
The Warriors desperately need Lee for this upcoming road trip in Texas to combat the scoring of their opponents’ power forwards, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. They will not have him against Nowitzki but hopefully he will return against San Antonio. Speights and Green will have to continue play well in Lee’s absence in order for Golden State to maintain their position in the Western Conference.
But if the Warriors want to reach their goals, Lee is vital to their success.