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Warriors insert Gary Payton II into starting lineup of Game 4 against Lakers

A different kind of small ball.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Golden State Warriors are putting in Gary Payton II in the starting lineup in place of JaMychal Green in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Prior to this announcement, Payton was out of the rotation this series, averaging only 11.2 minutes in three games, most of which came in garbage time. His sudden insertion signals an apparent focus on defense, in contrast to the JaMychal change where spacing and opening up lanes on offense was the clear intent.

Payton will most likely guard D’Angelo Russell, who torched the Warriors in Game 3 with his 21 points on 13 shots (5-of-8 on threes). That frees up Klay Thompson to guard Austin Reaves and Steph Curry to guard Jarred Vanderbilt, while Andrew Wiggins remains on LeBron James and Draymond Green stays on Anthony Davis.

The risks of the Lakers completely ignoring Payton and top-locking more immediate threats like Curry and Thompson — not unlike what they did with Kevon Looney in Game 1 whenever he shared the floor with Draymond — are there. But the Warriors are banking on this defensively tilted lineup to get stops and increase their transition opportunities against a team that ranked 26th in transition defensive rating (130.7) during the regular season.

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