All series long, fans anticipated seeing the Golden State Warriors turn to their greatest weapon, the small ball line-up referred to the ‘death line-Up’ by NBA media.
The Warriors’ “death lineup” is arguably the most potent five-man unit in history. Featuring Draymond Green at center, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and this season, Kevin Durant (who replaced Harrison Barnes).
The reason why the lineup has proven so successful is the way it spreads the floor to impossible limits, with five players capable of handling the ball, passing, attacking the basket, and switching on defence. Since the addition of Kevin Durant, no team seems to have an answer for it.
But it wasn’t until yesterday’s Game 5 that they decided to unleash it.
Prior to Game 5, the Warriors had run with its death lineup for only 17 total minutes in the Finals. Even in the lead-up to the championship game the team had only used it for 32 total minutes in the playoffs.
Warriors coaching staff seemed to prefer utilising big men JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia in the lead up to the championship, perhaps wary of their ability to rebound against the much more in tune front court that had seen each player increase their rebounding per game efforts from last season, Thompson (0.2 rpg increase), Love (1.2 rpg increase) and Leron (1.2 rpg increase).
It seems the Warriors were cautious of giving opponents too much exposure to it, and instead perfectly used it as an ace up their collective sleeves at precisely the right moment.
In Game 5, the death lineup played 16 minutes together, outscoring the Cavs by three points in that stretch. Even more telling, the unit was on pace to outscore the Cavs by 18 points over 100 possessions. For the series, the death lineup scored over 142 points per 100 possessions and gave up just 96 points per 100 possessions, giving them a net rating of 45.7.
In short: if the Warriors had relied on the line-up for longer stretches of times, it would have annihilated the Cavs. Something those interested in NBA Finals betting should take note of next season.
After the game, Kerr alluded to how both teams possess such great shooting and offensive talent that figuring out a defensive game plan can seem fruitless.
“The game has changed so much in terms of the spacing and the shooting, and you’re looking out there and you’re like, how are we going to stop anybody? I’m sure [Cavs coach] Ty [Lue] was saying the same thing.”
The Warriors possess this in spades, and the rest of the league, as Kerr mentioned, is wondering how to stop it.
Perhaps if the Warriors played the death lineup more, the NBA would adjust and solve the puzzle. For now, it remains the ultimate trump card, a lineup capable of swinging a game at seemingly any moment. The Warriors played it exactly when they needed to.