Warriors End of Game Lineups
With the Warriors trailing Denver for the majority of the fourth quarter, Mark Jackson went with a small-ball lineup to help combat the Nuggets smaller lineup containing both Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson. Jackson’s move had numerous consequences, both good and bad, and while I don’t mind the strategy, I think that there are numerous ways it could be better implemented.
The most glaring issue was the Dubs infrequent attempts to take advantage of mismatches while they were on offense. Basketball, especially down the stretch, is a game of mismatches. When you have Nate Robinson or Ty Lawson guarding Harrison Barnes (who is a good 6 to 8 inches taller than both), he needs to have the ball in his hands, even if he doesn’t end up taking the shot. Nine times out of ten Barnes will do one of two things: 1) Get a great look for himself or 2) get double-teamed and find an open teammate.
On occasion in the 4th, the Warriors were able to take advantage of these mismatches. In the final few possessions, David Lee got some easy looks after Robinson had switched on him, resulting in an And-1 and two free throws. But it took Mark Jackson and his assistants too long to recognize their advantage. If they had gone after Robinson and Lawson earlier in the fourth, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw would have been forced to make a switch to get one of the vertically challenged guards off the floor. As it were, Robinson erupted for 14 fourth quarter points.
Additionally in the last few possessions, especially when the Nuggets are shooting free throws, Andrew Bogut needs to be on the floor. I understand Jackson’s hesitance in having Bogut in the game late; he’s a terrible free throw shooter, a fact opposing teams are blatantly aware of. However, in order for a team to take advantage of this weakness, Bogut needs to have the ball in his hands. Teams can’t impose “Hack-a-Bogut” in the final two minutes because it results in two free throws AND the ball. Therefore you could theoretically just have Bogut out there to set screens on offense and, more to the point, clean up the defensive rebounds.
With just over 40 seconds left, J.J. Hickson was at the line shooting one free throw, the Nuggets leading by three. Hickson missed the attempt, and the ball bounced towards Lee. Nothing against Lee here — he had great position on his man and looked primed to get the ball — but a Nugget was able to reach over the top and tip the ball backwards for another possession. This would have been bad enough by itself, but on that same possession the Nuggets missed their next shot and got another offensive rebound. This simply doesn’t happen if Bogut replaces Lee.
In Zach Lowe’s most recent article, he lauds the Warriors miraculous change from a team with the worst Defensive Rebounding Percentage for the past five years to a team that actually leads the league in that category this year. That’s not just worst to first, that’s dead-and-buried to first. The majority of that marked improvement has to, I repeat HAS TO, be credited to Bogut. He takes every defensive rebound as a Manliest-dude-on-the-floor competition. I don’t need to tell you that, as a 7-foot Australian, he usually comes out on top in such challenges.
Jackson has played around a lot with his lineups this year, often times subbing in five reserves for five starters. Fourth quarter lineups have been less of a crapshoot, with Jackson usually opting to leave Bogut on the bench and putting Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green as a stretch four. I’m fine with Barnes or Draymond getting minutes, but defensive rebounding is usually a determining factor in who wins close games (see Game 6 of last year’s Finals, where Tim Duncan was left off the floor). Bogut takes the Dubs from an abysmal defensive rebounding team to an elite one. Bottom line: he needs to be out there, poor free throw shooting and all.