No, I’m not in China. But I did watch the Warriors’ 100-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Beijing on Tuesday. As far as the Warriors are concerned, it’s already fair to call the trip to China can be considered a success if only for reason: it got David Lee going.
For the first time this preseason, Lee looked like the All-Star he is. Part of it was the matador defense of Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol. But most of it was the liveliness of Lee. He was simply quicker and more explosive than his Lakers front-court counterparts, and he had various elements of his game was clicking.
That’s a vital step for the Warriors to round into form as the regular season news. They have hardly looked like the team expected to be a force in the Western Conference. But you could see some signs that’s starting to happen.
Lee had 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting in the first of two games against the Lakers in China. Lee made his first seven shots – four layups, two jumpers and a turn-around out of the post – en route to 22 first-half points.
His first step had some pop to it. And Lee – who got into the best shape of his career this summer after offseason hip surgery – torched the Lakers with his activity off the ball. You could really see his improved conditioning in how he ran the floor, found creases in the defense and how quickly he got off the floor when finishing.
Still, despite Lee’s offensive dominance, the Warriors trailed by 11 entering the fourth quarter. Golden State’s defense allowed 80 points the first three quarters and were staring at their third loss of the preseason.
But Golden State dominated the fourth quarter with the long ball, led by point guard Stephen Curry. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, knocking down three of the Warriors’ six 3-pointers in the final period.
Golden State trailed 84-75 with nine minutes left in the game. But Curry led a 12-0 run that gave the Warriors the lead for good. He started it with a pair of free throws. Moments later, after a three-point play by Kent Bazemore, Curry tied the game at 84 with a 3-pointer from the right wing, about three steps back from the line.
The next time down, Curry lost his defender with a series of dribbles and drilled a step-back 3-pointer, putting the Warriors up 87-84 with 6:19 left.
Minutes later, back-to-back 3-pointers from Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson, had the Warriors up 97-93 inside of three minutes.
Curry finished with 24 points, seven assists and three steals. Thompson had 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting off the bench. Andrew Bogut had nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Curry’s hot finish was a stark contrast to the first three quarters. Offense was a struggle most of the game for Curry. He missed 9 of his first 13 shots and had 10 points through the first three quarters. Curry was 0-for-3 on WIDE OPEN shots, including one from the left corner that clanked off the corner of the rim before bouncing over the backboard. Curry rolled his eyes and shook his head as he jogged back down court.
What got Curry going? Probably his most difficult shot of the night. He drove the lane and dumped it off to Lee. Curry then drifted towards the right corner, getting out of the lane. Lee whipped the pass right back to Curry, who without dribbling took a long step backwards to get behind the 3-point line. With Steve Blake charging at him, he drilled the long jumper (ref ruled his toe was on the line).
Before that jumper, Curry was 14 of 45 from the field (31.1 percent) in the preseason. That fancy step-back was one of four straight, including three straight 3-pointers, as Curry took over the game.
Through four games, Curry is shooting 36 percent from the field, including 9 of 25 from 3-point range.
Golden State as a whole is struggling offensively. As a team, the Warriors are shooting 39.9 percent. Only Iguodala (64) and Lee (52.3) are shooting better than 50 percent. Sorry, Dewayne Dedmon is shooting 55.6 percent on his nine shots.
Bogut, Barnes, Douglas, Green and Bazemore are all below 35 percent shooting from the field.
With forward Harrison Barnes out with left foot inflammation, the expectation was that Thompson would start. But instead, Draymond Green got the nod.
Is this a sign that coach Mark Jackson is set on bring Thompson off the bench? Not exactly.
The Warriors confirmed that Klay Thompson was supposed to start. But he overslept.
Klay started the second half. Punishment over.
The Warriors’ improved depth didn’t come into play much. Wasn’t able to ask Jackson the reason — maybe it was because he really wanted to win, or maybe it was because he doesn’t like the rhythm he is seeing from his core — but he played five guys heavily.
Only two other Warriors top 15 minutes: Green and Jermaine O’Neal. Only one Laker played more than 28 minutes (Xavier Henry).