As of Tuesday night, Warriors forward David Lee said he felt so awful he didn’t think he would play against Cleveland. He missed Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s shootaround. The Warriors practically had to set up a hospital room in his house, feeding him fluids intravenously and giving him round-the clock care.
DAVID LEE: “By (Wednesday) afternoon, I felt a little better to at least give it a shot. As captain of this team, along with Steph and Andrew, guys are looking up to me and seeing how I handle myself when I’m not feeling my best. I wanted to play tonight and show that.”
Lee showed them that plus some. His totals: 38 minutes, 22 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals. It’s the first time he’s had as much in each category in one game in his career.
Of course, Lee had better balled out. It’s not like Samardo Samuels or Jon Leuer should be able to stop him.
Cleveland was playing without big man Anderson Varejao, a frantic, physical defender who excels at taking charges and making life difficult. The Cavaliers were also without big man Tyler Zeller, another big body they could’ve thrown at Lee.
But Lee had another opponent, a virus in his stomach. Lee said he felt bad in the first half. But in the second half, he was really suffering. He’d lost so many fluids, so much energy.
STEPHEN CURRY: “Inside the huddle, D. Lee would have his head down in his lap, chugging down Gatorades.”
But he survived, thrived even. So did the Warriors. More from Wednesday’s victory …
MVP: David Lee.
It almost went to Harrison Barnes, who thankfully played his best game as a pro after I said he’d have a breakout game. But, it’s not about me. And if that’s really his breakout game, probably not a good sign.
So it goes to Lee. He finally returned to the productive, efficient PF we’re accustomed to. So what it was against a depleted Cavaliers frontline, missing veteran big man Anderson Varejao and rookie center Tyler Zeller. It had to be refreshing to see Lee’s jumper fall, see him getting to the rim and converting.
MDP: Klay Thompson
After missing the potential game-winner in Sacramento on Monday, Thompson couldn’t find a rhythm on Wednesday. And he was forcing it. He finished with 13 points on 4 of 10 shooting, knocking down just 1 of 5 from 3-point range. He did attempt a team high six free throws. But he missed two, noticeable for a shooter of his caliber. Plus he had four turnovers.
Fortunately for him, Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters had an off night as well. Golden State had Waiters, who also plays shooting guard, high on their draft board. Maybe, a dominant performance by Waiters — who came into the game averaging 16.3 points on 48 percent shooting — would have made many wonder what could have been. But Waiters went 5-for-15 for 12 points.
KEY MOMENT I: On the Warriors’ second possession of the game, Curry got an open look at a 3-pointer. He took it and made it.
May sound like a rather uneventful thing. But that first shot is pretty vital. Curry was coming off a 3-for-15 performance on Monday, which was not even a week removed from the 2-for-14 opening night shooting performance at Phoenix.
Later in the quarter, when it was clear Curry was out of his shootings lump, he forced the tempo and took advantage of a chance to get inside. With 4:51 left, he weaved through the defense and banked in a 6-foot runner over Irving, with the foul.
Curry’s ability to get in the lane and attack the defense, in addition to his outside shooting, is the key to his production and to the Warriors offense.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “It was all about the defense. Simple as that. Until our guys understand how important it is, we’re going to have these ups and downs like we did (Wednesday). The first quarter was a prime example of coming out and almost feeling sorry for ourselves because we don’t have (Varejao) and Tyler. … To me it just all boils down to defensive effort first of all.” Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott
Xs AND Os: Harrison Barnes had his best game as a pro, scoring 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting in 30 minutes. He had eight points in the fourth quarter, and the credit for that goes to a change of gameplan.
Mark Jackson started dumping the ball down to Barnes in the post. He turned out to be more effective down low with his back to the basket than he had been facing up from the perimeter. Using his size and strength, Barnes converted all three of his shots, two inside and one he muscled through a foul for a three-point play.
Jackson may have found a niche for Barnes, who has struggled finding his way as the fourth or fifth option on the court.
*Jackson took a risk this time with Andrew Bogut’s minutes. Limited to 20 while he rehabs his left ankle, Bogut used up 12 in the first half. Jackson had recently been making a point to save Bogut for the last half of the fourth quarter. But this time, Bogut started the third quarter and played the first five minutes.
When Bogut checked out, at the 6:59 mark, the Warriors had lost control. The game was tied at 67, meaning Golden State’s 17-point lead was completely erased. Seconds later, a Waiters jumper put the Cavaliers ahead.
Why was that a risk? Bogut had just three minutes remaining for the fourth quarter. He would’ve had to sit the second half of the third quarter, the break between, then the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Jackson said he wanted to prevent elongated stints with Bogut sitting, because his ankle tightens up.
Fortunately, the Warriors rebuilt their cushion by the end of the third quarter and was never really challenged the rest of the way. So the Warriors didn’t need Bogut. But imagine if the game got close or if Cleveland kept a small lead. Not only would he have had just three minutes, but he would have been coming off the bench cold turkey when the Warriors needed him most.
SERIOUSLY?: We know David Lee and Jarrett Jack were battling flu-like symptoms. But after the game, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving revealed he too was under the weather. That was a surprise to the Cleveland writers.
IRVING: “It was the worst thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never really played under the weather like that. It was tough. … I tried to get out there for my teammates and still compete. I was sluggish in the first quarter. I started to pick it up once I got warm, but I just wasn’t myself tonight.”
Irving had 28 points on 10 of 22 shooting with seven assists and six rebounds in 36 minutes.
KEY MOMENT II: After a jumper by Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters put Cleveland up 69-67, things were looking bleak for the Warriors. They had blown another big lead (led by double-digits at Sacramento on Monday) and were out of sync and appeared headed for a demoralizing loss.
But the Warrior started going inside. Barnes wound up getting a free throw after getting fouled on a putback. Curry followed with a floater. Landry then drilled a turn-around bank shot from 11-feet. Then Lee converted an alley-oop from Jarrett Jack. Then Curry got a steal that led to a layup by Jack. The Warriors didn’t take a long shot for more than three minutes. And when they did, it was a 19-footer off the hot hands of Landry, so of course it went in, capping an 11-1 run that put Golden State up 78-70 with 2:58 left.
BEFORE YOU GO: Carl Landry bounced back from his off game on Monday. After taking the Bay Area by storm, he was silenced in the loss to the Sacramento Kings. But against the Cavaliers, he returned to dominant form.
Landry had 19 points and 9 rebounds in 26-plus minutes. He made eight of his 10 shots. He scored six points during the run that put the Warriors ahead for good.
JACKSON: “He’s having the time of his life. He’s been great for us. He’s a guy who can flat out score on the block. Won’t settle. He’s crafty and tough to defend. He’s given us a lot both defensively and rebounding. I’m very comfortable down the stretch playing through him because he is unselfish and does a great job reading and making plays. He’s quite a find for us and a big-time back-up four and five.”