Once the Warriors didn’t come out of halftime with the Death Lineup, there were many who wondered why Steve Kerr would wait to employ his most effective five-man group — particularly after the Cavaliers altered their starting lineup due to Kevin Love’s absence.
There are many reasons why the Death Lineup would’ve made sense in the first and third quarters.
— It helped bring the Warriors back to within a reasonable deficit in the second quarter.
— Andrew Bogut has been up and down throughout the postseason, and Festus Ezeli has been mostly down.
— Cleveland did a lot of damage with their 1-4 pick-and-roll, and it would probably behoove the Warriors to have Andre Iguodala guarding and switching against that play more often than Draymond Green, who might be a better match for Tristan Thompson than Bogut is.
But mostly, the Lineup of Death has been the most productive lineup in the NBA this season, and the Warriors don’t want to let the Cavs get back into this series.
Here’s my question: Doesn’t Kerr already know have access to all of this information, plus so much more?
This is one of the things that drives me a little batty about Twitter, and sportswriting in general. There’s nothing wrong with calling out obvious mistakes made by coaches. If I couldn’t call out Jim Tomsula last season, I wouldn’t have had much material during the 2015 NFL season. However, sometimes low-hanging fruit isn’t as sweet as it looks.
Kerr knows more about the mental and physical state of his team than anyone outside of the organization. The Warriors take great pains to make certain this is the case. He knows whether Green can handle the rigors of playing the “5” for the rest of the Warriors’ minutes this season. He knows if the Death Lineup might be more effective in smaller doses, like a “must-win” situation, IF Bogut and the other centers provide help in the games leading up to that moment.
As frustrating as it can be to watch Bogut when he fails to corral rebounds, or misses those weird little swooping lefty hooks, his presence gives everyone around him a break on the defensive end. As a rim protector, he’s a safety valve of sorts. Yes, when the Death Lineup is on the floor, they are a dynamic switching combination of like-sized defenders. But all of that switching and battling for rebounds is extremely tiresome. That’s why other teams don’t or can’t use similar lineups to such effect, because they don’t have the unique set of players the Warriors do. Green, a 6′ 7″, long-armed defensive demon, is one of the most unique players in the league.
Twitter managers and coaches
We see this all of the time in other sports. Bruce Bochy is questioned when he moves guys around in his lineup, sits Buster Posey for the second time in a week with no injury cited as the reason why, or uses a reliever in a situation that might call for another, even though he talks to the players on a daily basis and knows how they’re feeling.
Most of us don’t know much about the finer points of football. But we can all tell time! So, the coaches in that sport are ripped for clock management follies every weekend, even when the problems aren’t that severe. For instance: Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman were more accepting of early timeouts and even delay of game penalties than any other coaches in recent memory, and it drove everyone crazy. But other than a timeout Harbaugh took in Super Bowl 47 (and that was probably more of a coaching hiccup by Harbaugh than an instance of miscommunication or the product of overly complicated play-calling language), when did time management hold the 49ers back from winning games? And how many mistakes were avoided by being meticulous? We’ll never know, but the 49ers were one of the top two teams in turnovers (fewest committed) in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and were 11th in 2014.
It’s now in vogue to examine NBA lineups more closely than ever before, and that makes sense because we have the technology thanks to sites like NBAwowy.com. Without this attention to detail, the Death Lineup might not even exist. However, with a coach like Kerr, doesn’t it make sense to give him the benefit of the doubt when he plays Anderson Varejao in the second round a little more than we expected and waits to go into Death mode? It’s nice to win every single game by 30 points, but the goal is to win a title, and when Kerr doesn’t take the obvious route, maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason. With several Warriors either approaching or having surpassed (Green and Klay Thompson) 100 games played, Kerr’s experience managing this team to a title and going through several long seasons as a player, along with the fact that he hasn’t failed at anything since joining the Warriors, it’s not crazy to think there’s a method to Kerr’s lineup madness.
@BASportsGuy there is no secret excuse to not playing the death lineup. The only reason u don't play it is if you don't want to win
@BASportsGuy Kerr fucked up. Just say it. Now he needs to fix it THE SAME WAY HE FIXED IT LAST YEAR
@BASportsGuy Kerr being stubborn about his stupid principles and tryin to keep vets happy more plausible than he knows better than us
@BASportsGuy it's insulting to tell us to just trust Kerr bc he has some secret information we don't have, the death lineup is his creation
@BASportsGuy can't give away games in the finals, more G played the more injury risk and our guys already hurt
@BASportsGuy big difference between conserving in reg season v finals. If dray can't handle the minutes GSW doesn't win a title anyways
@BASportsGuy It's almost as if he's spoiled to an extent because at the most desperate times, he knows what he can fall back on.
@SheridanBlog damn right he's spoiled, they went 73-9
@BASportsGuy Is that something u want to see out of ur coach in playoffs? Preferably, you'd like to see him at his peak at this time of year
@SheridanBlog injuries to his best 2 players (Dray's ankle has been forgotten) forced him to get creative, plus opponents are really good
@BASportsGuy It's cuz he does it at the price of losing these games. Who wants to see that kind of gamble? Process imp't but so is reason
@BaySean agree with BASG's take, but in fairness to you and other Dubs fans, the lack of minutes for the lineup is the biggest Dubs mystery
@BaySean but if they lose tomorrow night...
@ParkerBaruh Confident they’ll come out with more energy and win. Lost back-to-back games once (WCF). 87-15 on the year. Stay with me!
@BaySean alright, I got faith in the take.
I used to yell at Jackson and Nellie and others before them through the TV. (Of course it's nuts. Shut up).
Disclaimer: I still grouse at Jackson through the TV occasionally, but for entirely different reasons.
I can't remember ever yelling at Kerr. Or Luke, for that matter.
Even when the players sleep walk through a game, I don't find myself thinking "geez Kerr, what the hell were you thinking? These guys aren't ready to play." Not even when he comes to the postgame presser and pretty much says exactly that, and owns it himself.
So yeah, maybe the idea is that Kerr (and Bochy) have shown enough that they know what's best, and I'm quite satisfied so far not to armchair at them.
Recent 49ers, however ....
@BASportsGuy we ain't saying we know best but when u wait till deficit go from 7 to 17 to go to death lineup u let hole get too deep!
@oshunj Will you be satisfied with Kerr's performance if they win a title?
@BASportsGuy not buying it! u have a chance to go up 3/1 u take it! 49ers deserved every criticism re: play calling...saw every game...
It's easy for people on twitter to demand Kerr plays Andre Iguodala 42 minutes per game and later rip an exhausted and banged up Andre Iguodala for not playing well in game 6/7 than it is to try to actually manage a team to have the best chance to win a series/championship.
Kerr's coaching style and strategy and choices vaulted this Warriors team from really good to all-time greatness. I think it's kind of suspect and rude that people on Twitter with zero basketball coaching experience are seriously questioning Kerr's coaching style. If they were head coach, the team probably wouldn't have even made the playoffs. Granted, it's fun to make fun of coaching blunders (http://i.imgur.com/IvW02dr.gifv) but Steve Kerr's coaching decision isn't making Steph miss shots he usually hits, it isn't making Stephen Adams go on an 18/22 FT hot streak, it isn't making Lebron hit contested midrange jumpers.
Thanks for the writeup Steve.