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Golden State Warriors: Steve Kerr compares Death Lineup to Bulls

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Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, seen here in December, insists he isn’t worried about Draymond Green’s slew of injuries this season. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors held optional practice on Monday, and though the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were absent, injured Patrick McCaw — who has begun working his way back from a lumbar spine contusion — did get some shooting in ahead of Tuesday’s Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

“He’s continuing to improve and get shots up,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “He looks good, so it’s good to see.”

McCaw could return as early as the first week of June, just in time for the NBA Finals.

Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and JaVale McGee were also in the Rakuten Center, getting their work in.

“It’s funny. In my first year, I would tell guys, ‘No practice, but if you want to come in and work, that’s up to you,'” Kerr said. “They were all kind of looking at me, and for almost the whole year, I’d have to tell them, ‘I’m not playing mind games,’ because they were wondering if they were supposed to come in anyway.”

Kerr preferred that his heavy rotation players — six Warriors played 20 minutes or more in Sunday’s Game 4 — take some time off before Tuesday’s Game 5 at Oracle Arena.

“The guys that play big minutes, on a day like today, they should sleep and get some treatment, a massage, play golf, do something different,” Kerr said. “Guys who don’t play as much should come in.”

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Kerr started the Death Lineup (or the Hamptons Five) — Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry — for the first time in his careeronthe bench Sunday in New Orleans.

Asked which starting lineup he’d deem the best in his playing and coaching career, he said he’d compare that lineup to the Chicago Bulls’ starting five of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tony Kucoc, Dennis Rodman and Ron Harper.

“That’s a lot of long, rangy guys who can handle the ball and make a play, that was pretty impressive,” Kerr said. “That group in today’s game would have been devastating.”

That lineup, Kerr recalled, didn’t start together much, but when it did, Kucoc played center.

“The ’96 team, Phil [Jackson] decided to start Ron Harper in the backcourt, and it was devastating,” Kerr said. “Those other four started pretty much that whole three run, but usually with a big center, because in those days, you had to guard big centers. Sometimes, we’d throw Kucoc out with that group.”

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In that Game 3, Pelicans center Anthony Davis went for 33 points on 15-of-27 shooting, with 18 rebounds with a plus-24 rating, while Nikola Mirotic went for 16 points and 13 rebounds, with a plus-14 rating.

In Game 4, Davis finished with 26 points, but shot 8-for-22 from the field and 0-for-3 from three-point range, and was -25 in the plus-minus. Mirotic scored seven points in almost 32 minutes, with a plus-minus of minus-16.

“I think inevitably, you see it in every series — if you handle your business early, there’s going to be a natural let-down, and when the let-down happens, how do you respond?” Kerr said. “That’s what I always look for, and that was very satisfying in last night’s game. We didn’t bring the necessary force in Game 3. We were threatened, on the road, and our guys brought it, set a tone early, and that’s the mark of a great team.”

Davis has averaged 26.3 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game over the course of the series, and is shooting 47.3% from the floor.

“There’s just nobody that size with that type of agility and the ability to put the ball on the floor,” Kerr said. “There’s a couple guys who come to mind … but Davis right now is on a different level … We did a great job on him last night. That was about as good as we can do, and he had 25 and 13 or something. You don’t even harbor any illusions about stopping a guy like that. You just try to make it difficult.”

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Golden State holds a 3-1 series lead, and are set to eliminate the Pelicans at home on Tuesday, with a possible Western Conference Finals start on Monday in Houston.

With the chance to dispatch the Pelicans before them, Warriors forward Draymond Green is averaging 12.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 15.1 points in his last seven close-out games.

 

“It just reflects his competitiveness, in general,” Kerr said. “The bigger the game, the better Draymond plays, the more intense he is, the more focus he has. He’s going against Anthony Davis night after night, and is just doing amazing job, in concert with his teammates. Draymond’s a rare guy. Every time the moment gets bigger, he gets better.”

 

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