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Four Game 4 musings after Warriors awaken the Death Lineup on Pelicans

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What is the Death Lineup? Why don’t we see it more? Is DubNation nervous when KD goes iso? How good is Quinn Cook?

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors are flying back to Oakland, clutching a 3-1 lead covered in bloody feathers from the aftermath of a Sunday afternoon humiliation of the New Orleans Pelicans, 118-92, deep in the heart of Louisiana.

This gruesome display of basketball destruction can be attributed in part to head coach Steve Kerr’s decision to unleash what Steve Sekou of NBA.com chillingly referred to as the “most diabolical five-man unit in basketball”. Yes, brethren and sistren of Splash, Kerr started “The Death Lineup” (also known as “The Hamptons 5”) for the first time in NBA history.

The defending champions were finally annoyed enough to press the red button. Thanks for getting us there, Rajon Rondo.

Let’s explore four gold-blooded questions in the wake of the Warriors showing a glimpse of their true power in New Orleans.

Why is the “Death Lineup” so lethal?

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are the Golden Empire’s four current All-Stars, smack dab in the middle of their primes. When their immense powers are combined with the raging grit and savvy dynamism of 34-year-old veteran Andre Iguodala, they become unstoppable. The pace is ratcheted up, the floor is spaced on offense, and the Warriors defense rotates sharply. Even simple pick-and-roll actions get the champs great looks at the basket as the opposing defense doesn’t have time to effectively scramble.

Durant thoughtfully described the dilemma this unit presents after he dropped 38 on the Pelicans in Game 4:

You know, you got most of the guys that can penetrate and make plays. It’s good for scorers like Klay, Steph and myself. You know Andre and Draymond do all the utilities stuff like driving to the rim, getting stops, getting rebounds, and you know they were knocking down shots when they got the opportunity to shoot ‘em. I think we played off each other well.

Yeah, I think so too Kevin.

The Warriors began the game with a 17-4 onslaught, capped off with a wide-open Curry corner three on a sequence that neutered the Pelicans defensive aggression.

Durant had 10 points in the opening period, and Dubs’ defense frustrated Pelicans’ superstar Anthony Davis with energetic swarming. The Ringer had an amazing piece earlier this year on the alarming inability for opposing big men to take advantage of the Death Lineup’s relative lack of height at center. Davis was physically jammed by Warriors defenders when he attempted to roll to the rim, and harassed into shooting quickly when he did get the ball.

The Warriors would finish the quarter with a 37-22 advantage, and never look back. The Pelicans were blitzed.

Why don’t we see the “Hamptons 5” more?

Coach Kerr had previously used this lineup judiciously; he normally inserted it to close out games in the fourth quarter. In last year’s postseason, he deployed the lineup for only 65 minutes. Of all five man lineups in last year’s postseason, the Hamptons 5 ranked 14th in minutes played.

Remember how this lineup punished the LeBron James/Kyrie Irving era Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s Finals? Scott Davis of Business Insider does:

All series long, the NBA world waited for the Golden State Warriors to turn to their greatest weapon, and finally, in the championship-clinching Game 5, they turned to it...the lineup spreads the floor to impossible limits, with five players capable of handling the ball, passing, attacking the basket, and switching on defense. Nobody in the NBA has proven to have an answer to it.

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 turned to it for longer stretches of times, it would have annihilated the Cavs.

After ripping the trophy back from the Cleveland’s sweaty palms, Kerr resisted the temptation to give this unit heavy minutes throughout this season. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe has alluded to, this could be to spare the undersized Green from dealing with too many behemoths at center, and also to keep other teams from observing the lineup to gameplan for it. Additionally, the team had so many nagging injuries to stars this year that peak Death Lineup performance couldn’t be unleashed.

After Davis ran wild in Game 3 for 33 points and 18 rebounds on JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney, Kerr appeared to realize he has no true big man who can keep up with “The Brow”. With the lineup change in Game 4, Davis was “limited” to a more palatable 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Do we like KD playing isoball?

Look, I know Durant is a 4-time scoring champion and former MVP. I am fully aware that he’s 19th all-time in playoff scoring and climbing (currently sandwiched between scoring machines Kevin McHale and Wilt Chamberlain). But right now, hey, let’s face it: Durant is struggling shooting the ball beyond the arc. He’s at a Charles Barkley-ian 27% from distance this postseason, a huge drop after scorching nets at 44% last playoffs.

The worst part is when he stagnates the Warrior’s beautiful motion offense to play some of that “OKC” ball. You know, where he clears out a whole side to himself and just decides to jack from 30 feet with a defender draped all over him? That style of basketball doesn’t work in the playoffs consistently becau—

Durant had 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists on 15-27 shooting (2 of 5 from three) in Game 4. Those are monster numbers!

Hmmm, ok — maybe I should trust that Durant is intelligent enough to weigh the risk/rewards of shouldering the scoring load in certain instances. Perhaps, I should learn to live with the fact that he is a scorer so prolific that he has the ability to destroy any single coverage. Maybe, instead of nit-picking when Durant zeroes in on a defender to engage in isolation basketball, I should sit back and appreciate the brilliance of a once-in-a-lifetime baller demonstrating his craft.

When he’s off-rhythm, I trust he won’t sabotage the team chasing after his shot. When he’s on, he’s unguardable.

Ask the Cavaliers! :D

How good is Quinn Cook?

I have watched a lot of backup point guards during the playoffs seem timid and gun-shy in the face of playoff defense. Cook is absolutely not one of them. In a hostile environment, playing against a team in a must-win situation, Cook showed fire.

His 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes was the biggest bright spot from the bench with Iguodala moved to the starting lineup. Cook has not shown fear of the moment this season, and he is an engaged, supportive teammate. When Kerr calls his number, the former Duke product carries himself like a true vet.

Moving On

Don’t you just love when the Warriors end games in the third quarter? Gosh, we’re spoiled as Dubs’ fans. Let’s see if we can end their season Tuesday, Game 5, at home. THIS ONE’S FOR DAMIAN LILLARD #TOWNBIZ

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder against the Pelicans in Game 4?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Kevin ‘Motherfreaking’ Durant
    (255 votes)
  • 21%
    Draymond ‘4am text message’ Green
    (84 votes)
  • 1%
    Steph Curry
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Andre Iguodala
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Klay Thompson
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Kevon Looney
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Quinn ‘I can’t believe Ian Clark is still winning that last WW poll’ Cook
    (21 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (answer in the comments please)
    (0 votes)
385 votes total Vote Now