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David Lee Assumes Star’s Role in Warriors Win at Cleveland

CLEVELAND — He scored a game-high 29 points. He put up 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot clock-beating, nail-in-the-coffin 18-footer with 44.8 seconds left.

But the scoring star of the Warriors’ 105-95 victory here Tuesday night wasn’t who you might expect.

“It wasn’t my night,” guard Monta Ellis said. “It was David Lee’s.”

Ellis had one of his worst offensive performances of the season. He made just 2 of 12 from the field and finished with 10 points.

He left the game with 35.2 seconds left after taking an elbow to the nose from Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. With the game was already decided, Ellis didn’t return. X-rays were negative as he suffered just a cut.

With Ellis having an off night, and point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) in street clothes for the seventh consecutive game, the Warriors (5-8) still managed enough offense to outscore the Cavaliers.

You can thank Lee, who also had nine rebounds as Golden State won back-to-back games road games for the first time since November 2010.

Tuesday night continued a torrid stretch for Lee. Over his last five games, Lee is averaging 24.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting. He’s also averaging 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

To be sure, much of Lee’s latest splurge has been the result of his taking advantage of some mismatches. He’s schooled power forwards such as Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, Detroit’s undersized Jonas Jerebko and defensively challenged Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison.

But Warriors coach Mark Jackson said that doesn’t take away from Lee’s performance. Jackson said aside from two or three elites, Lee is as good as any power forward in the league — and on a given night he can outplay even the elite of the elites.

“The bottom line is he’s getting it done on both sides of the basketball,” Jackson said. “He’s more of a complete player. He’s a tough matchup when he has the ball in his hands making plays. … He’s playing outstanding basketball for us.”

But Lee, who’s considered by some experts and critics to be just a stat-sheet filler, has become a key cog in the offense lately.

Jackson has run the offense through Lee from the high post. Jackson has gone to Lee in the post, taking advantage of the latest development in Lee’s game. And he still milks the pick-and-rolls, which lately has led to Lee knocking down a jumper.

Tuesday, he took over the game down the stretch.

The Warriors trailed 87-85 with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Lee ran off seven straight points, capped with a 17-foot jumper that gave Golden State a 92-87 lead with just under six minutes remaining.

The Cavaliers had it down to three with just shy of three minutes left. But Lee answered by going into the post. His turnaround jumper off the glass put Golden State up 99-93 with 1:56 left.

“He’s taken his game to another level,” Ellis said. “And that’s what we need. … It makes it hard for teams to defend us.”

* With 7:36 left in the third quarter, a disappointed Jackson took all his starters out of the game.

The first unit had given up a 14-2 run and trailed 67-62. So Jackson went with the second unit, led by guard Nate Robinson. The rest of the way, Golden State outscored Cleveland 19-12. The Cavaliers, the rest of the quarter, went 4 for 10 from the field with six turnovers.

“Our starters didn’t play well to start the third quarter,” Lee said, “and our reserves came in and did an unbelievable job keeping us in the game and getting us the lead back.”

Robinson finished with 17 points and 10 assists. Golden State’s bench outscored Cleveland’s 50-31.

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Rookie swingman Klay Thompson tied his career-high with 14 points in 16 minutes off the bench. His brother, Cavaliers’ guard Mychel Thompson, certainly can be proud.

Though Cleveland’s rookie guard did not play, he got to watch his little brother shine and knows he had a hand in Klay Thompson’s success.

“I think I helped a little bit,” Mychel, 22, said. “I had to be a little bit of a bully when we were kids because I was older.”

The two battled all summer during the lockout. Klay, 21, said since he was 6 he’s been going toe-to-toe with Mychel and their younger brother Trayce, who plays minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization.

This was only the second time Klay and Mychel have played against each other in organized basketball. The other time, Mychel said, was in AAU. Klay, then a junior in high school, sprained his ankle stepping on Mychel’s foot.

Klay said Tuesday he was appreciative of the opportunity and the chance to even his record against Mychel. Klay said he would never have made it this far without his brother.

“Not a chance,” Klay said, “without him or my little brother. They developed my game. … It’s just cool to see him out there.”

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Warriors center Andris Biedrins finished with 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. He was a big reason the Cavaliers were 5-for-17 shooting on second-chance opportunities.

“It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but the bottom line is that he battled,”Jacksonsaid. “He was phenomenal.”

 

Marcus Thompson

  • haastheman

    not surprising. David Lee has easily been the most consistent warrior so far this season. Monta has been great at times, but Lee is always there.

  • Dirk Suave

    Come on Lee haters. Where are ya? He’s been everything as advertised since we signed him. A very good 20-10 PF. We still need Stpeh back to compete long term. Good to see. Now they need to finish this trip 3-1.

  • amanda hugankiss

    I’m a Lee hater, but stats aren’t nothing unless you get a win. Lee up until these last five games as always been a role player so it’s finally good to see him be a difference maker for once.

  • Jaysohn

    I’m not a Lee hater just an objective fan. Lee has consistently put up decent numbers but as we all know numbers don’t always tell the whole story. The real value of a player is judged by if they are a difference maker, do the numbers lead to wins. The Warriors need more games from Lee like last night to where he can be relied on to get a key bucket or rebound when it matters.

  • Derek

    David Lee hasn’t been consistent, however maybe that’s about to change.

  • Dave

    There is no way they would have went 2-2 on the last road trip without Lee. It would have been L, L, L, L like last year when Lee went down. Lee makes the difference but it is not enough. He needs help.

  • Holy Toledo

    Lee is overpaid, but not nearly as much as most think.

    Lee gets ripped for being on run and gun teams, padding his stats on low win, high octane units. Fair enough. But, you play where you play. What was he supposed to do, not try his best in the environment he was drafted, not take the best deal in the sign and trade?

    Now he’s playing a non-run and gun system (although we need to try to run more, not to mention spend some practice time, Mark, on completing fast break opportunities, spacing.) Lee’s showing, while #s won’t be quite as good, that he can play this style too.

    Yes, his D is straight up poor one on one, yes. High hoops IQ for team D is there though.

    The way to look at it all added up with David Lee is that he really does have enough positives to outweigh the lack of D. (Considering how tough it is for perennial losers like us to “attract” free agents.)

    1. How many highpaid FA’s flame out, try less, just lose focus, etc? Maybe not “lot’s,” but enough to make it a worry. Lee will always show up, give you his guts and glory out there.

    2. Lee has more athleticism than you think.

    3. He has (and this word is thrown around too freely these days) high hoops IQ.

    4. He can pass for a PF/C. Yes, part of good O game, but a nice little addition for the position, which helps in many ways, not to mention good FT% for a PF, yesterday not included, small sample size of course.