PORTLAND, Ore. — Warriors starting forward David Lee was benched for 15 minutes up until the middle of the fourth quarter. Coach Mark Jackson said it was due to his defense as Draymond Green got those minutes instead.
“We were trying to get it going, and up until that point, David hadn’t played his best basketball defensively,” Jackson said after the Warriors beat the Trail Blazers 113-112 on Sunday. “They put small guys on the floor. Dorell Wright hit a couple of shots.
So just trying to get it going and being able to defend the pick-and-roll a little better, and then at the end of the day give David credit because I’ve been part of teams and I’ve watched teams where a starter says, ‘Forget you, Coach. I’m not going back in. And if I do, I’m going to give a halfhearted effort.’”
Lee ended up coming back into the game and coming through with layups on back-to-back possessions. Jackson also credited him with setting a screen to free up Stephen Curry as the ball swung around to Klay Thompson for the game-winning shot.
“It’s not a position I’m normally in,” said Lee, who played 24 minutes. “Coach was unhappy with a few of my rotations early in the third quarter and decided to go with Draymond, who played unbelievable.
“I’m always going to be ready. Steph came over to me and said, ‘Continue to be ready.’ Like I said, I trust Coach. You saw me, I’m cheering like I’m in the game, so it doesn’t matter to me. All I want to do is get the win and was able to come back in. When I finally got my chance again, I was ready to go. I thought I made some good defensive plays and a few offensive plays to end the game.”
That’s a sign of where this team stands at the moment. Jackson was able to hold Lee accountable for defensive lapses. Lee was able to accept it, understand it, and bounce off the bench to make a difference in the final moments when he was needed after Green fouled out.
One game after an 18-point lead was blown, an 18-point deficit was overcome. Lee certainly didn’t have his best game with 16 points and three rebounds in a game in which Golden State lost the edge on the boards 48-41.
But the Warriors rallied with hot shooting and a team effort in a game that helped them avoid matching a season-long three-game winning streak. And Lee was there to soak it in afterward.
“I was really proud of how our team came together,” he said.