Warriors burned by awkward call to sit Gary Payton II in fourth vs. Lakers

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Warriors burned by curious call to sit out GP2 in fourth quarter originally appeared nbc sports birea

LOS ANGELES — When Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his staff review of their Game 4 loss to the Lakers, they'll find positives and negatives. They'll see things to cheer and things to deride, and at least one decision to debate and maybe even regret.

Why did Gary Payton II look to a guy named Lonnie Walker IV to crisp Golden State's defense off the bench?

Walker played the entire fourth quarter on Monday night, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-3. His last two points came on free throws with 15 seconds remaining that gave Los Angeles 104-101 win,

The other 13 came on an array of shots. A 3-pointer on Andrew Wiggins. Transition layup from Draymond Green turnover. A midrange jumper off an Anthony Davis screen that rattled Moses Moody. 22-footer over 's outstretched arm. A floater over Wiggins was obliterated after Curry was intercepted by a LeBron James screen. 15-foot pullup, once again, Curry's outstretched arm.

As Walker continued to cook, it seemed fitting that Kerr would call for his cooler. Their best perimeter defender. Yet every glance towards Golden State's bench found Payton seated, watching the Lakers edge closer to the defending NBA champions and put them on the brink of playoff elimination.

I asked Kerr afterward if he considered other defensive options to slow down Walker's scoring wrath.

“Ah, no,” said the coach.

When I noted that GP2 played the first two minutes of the fourth, Kerr replied with an explanation.

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“Gary started fourth,” he said. “We went to Moses to get another shooter on the floor. We're going to stick with that lineup for two-way ability.”

Payton, however, was the Warriors' No. 3 scorer in the game, behind Curry (31 points) and Wiggins (17). His 15 points in 23 minutes were efficient: 7 of 9 shots from the field, including 1 of 2 from beyond the arc. His perfect third quarter (nine points, 4 of 4 from the field, including 1 of 1 from deep) generated much of the momentum that allowed the Warriors to take an 84–77 lead into the fourth quarter.

After the first two minutes of the final quarter, Payton was gone. it was in the starting lineup — with Klay Thompson, Curry, Green and Wiggins — but not the closing lineup. So, he sat down with Jordan Poole, among others, which was ineffective in his 10 minutes.

“Gary, obviously, starting the game, really gave us a lift,” Kerr said.

It wasn't a bad decision to go with Moody, but choosing Payton was the more logical decision.

Kerr's reasoning for the decision seemed uncharacteristically curious, perhaps because the result was minutes out of date, and he was clearly annoyed. Maybe even angry.

Those questions were put forth because it seemed like an ideal situation for Payton. The Warriors acquired him three months prior to the NBA to prevent or reduce such scoring explosions, particularly by opposing guards. They met with him again, not knowing when he was cleared to play this season. They considered him worth the risk.

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Connected: GP2: Warriors locker room positive after Game 4

The Warriors thought so much of Payton's defensive impact, especially on the ball, that they were prepared to wait, fingers crossed, because they knew the postseason would be a procession of guards who could score.

Kerr's decision to start Payton in Game 4 was largely due to D'Angelo Russell's work in Game 3. Russell scored L.A.'s first 11 points, finishing with 21 points on 13 shots, and the Warriors lost by 30. Russell scored four points in Game 4. He shot 1 of 10 from the field. He was not neutralized. He was practically vaporized, with Payton being mostly responsible.

Walker scored 15 of L.A.'s 27 fourth-quarter points. He was two points behind Golden State's modest 17 points in the quarter.

“Lonnie Walker came in and made a big impact,” acknowledged Kerr. “I don't know if he scored all the points in the fourth, but it felt like it.”

He did it, coach. Walker was held scoreless through three quarters. Didn't even take a shot till the fourth.

It's all there, in the video, for 12 minutes that will get the warriors fired up for at least two days and probably, much longer.

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