Lakers @ Warriors – Will the real David Lee please stand up?
Well, the Warriors went into Portland last night and demolished the Trailblazers with a 21-point win. By all accounts, it was one of the Warriors most impressive wins of the season. Golden State has now beaten back-to-back playoff bound Western Conference opponents (having beaten Dallas 99-92 on Saturday), only the second time that’s happened all season long. The Warriors now have an opportunity for a first tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
They have only recorded a 3-game win streak three times in the last two seasons, but the last time the Warriors won 3 straight games against playoff bound opponents was the 2007-2008 season, when they defeated Washington, Philadelphia, and Phoenix in that order. Remember, they won 48 games that season, missing the playoffs by just 2 games. A win tonight would definitely provide some hope for the future for this team, who have struggled to maintain consistency on the basketball court.
The Warrior faithful in Oracle Arena tonight should have a good chance to see a win. Golden State has won back to back games in impressive fashion while the Lakers have lost two close games due to some inexplicable turnovers and lazy play. Most Warrior fans will remember how well the team played at home against the Los Angeles in January. Should they be able to put forth an effort like that one or similar to their previous two games, a win could be possible. The Lakers tend to play poorly in stretches as evidenced by their 3 separate 3-game losing streaks this season.
But one of the biggest things that needs to change in order for the Warriors to come away with the win is the play of David Lee. The 3 times the Warriors have faced the Lakers this season, Lee has been bullied by the Lakers big front line, averaging just 7 points and 5 rebounds per game. The scoring average is his lowest against any team this season (the only team he doesn’t average double digits against), and his rebounding has only been worse against the Chicago Bulls (who he played just 1 game against). These averages are in direct contrast to how he played the NBA Champions last season, when he averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds against them in 2 games.
A deeper look, however, shows an even more drastic change. As someone who’s made his way around NBA blogs and forums and spoken to a number of different of different fans, I’ve gained somewhat of a knowledge on how Knicks fans viewed David Lee the past two seasons in New York. One fan, in particular stick out to me because of how great he thought David really was. He was always talking about him, and though I never took him too serious, there was one thing I always found interesting.
This fan always told me of the instances where Lee outperformed some of the best players at his position. An example I remember better than others are is a game against the Spurs where he finished the game 11-13 for 28 points and 10 rebounds. His opposition, Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair, finished a respective 6-11 and 4-11 for a combined 21 points. The Knicks did still lose that game. He also had some very good games against Boston, who may have had the best defensive front court in the NBA last year. He also had a 31 and 17 game against the Lakers, in which he outperformed Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum by a considerable amount.
So basically this fan was suggesting that he plays best against great competition. He even went as far as too suggest his defense was much better in these types of games. However, this year its been hard to pinpoint instances of Lee taking it to some of the best players at his position. Last night was one of those instances. He out-played Aldridge, putting up his first 20 rebound game all season to go along with his 29 points.
His ineptitude against the Lakers this season has definitely made me reconsider whether or not he actually is a big-game player. But not fully reject it. When David Lee is on the court, he’s a fiery player. He argues with the referees, he talks trash, and he’ll stick up for himself and his teammates. He’s obviously a very emotional player that can have a fire lit under him. When I take that into account, I find it entirely possible that he was a very good big-game player up until the season. Not having watched him a lot as a Knick, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure.
But if this Warriors team is going to be successful, that’s the David Lee we’re going to need to see a lot more often. He’s had his good games this season, but often times, especially against the Lakers, he’s disappeared when he’s needed most. The Warriors haven’t had another guy to go and consistently grab rebounds this season. We also haven’t had very good post-scorers or defenders. Our guys have counted on David to be that guy, and a lot of times, he isn’t able to live up to the billing, whether it’s because he’s not that player or is just underachieving.
This being his last chance to put up a good game against the Lakers in 2010-11, I’m hoping to see a strong effort from him, even with how he played last night. Because, even if this isn’t an important game for the Lakers (it never really has been), it’s been important to our players and our fans for a while. The Lakers are a team Warrior fans despise for a variety of reasons, but also seem to be the team that consistently dominates us year-in and year-out. So, as Warrior games go, this is a big game. Just like last night’s match-up against a top NBA big man was a big game for Lee.
Hopefully we see some more production from him tonight, especially with Gasol and Bynum a bit banged up with injuries. We have upcoming games against Portland (Aldridge), Denver (Nene), and possibly our last game ever against our Northern California rival Sacramento Kings. All of those games could be considered big games considering Portland and Denver’s standing as playoff teams. What I see from him in these last 4 games is going to directly influence what I expect from him next season. I want to know who the real David Lee is.