Have Warriors discovered new ‘Death Lineup’?
Steve Kerr may be having another “hold up, let him cook” moment.
The Golden State Warriors were headed to a loss on Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies before their head coach Kerr pulled an interesting trick out of his sleeve. As his team trailed 111-102 with 5:10 left in the game, Kerr went super (duper) small and trotted out a lineup of Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
As Anthony Slater of The Athletic noted, the lineup proceeded to go on a tear, flipping the script of the game completely and turning the nine-point deficit into a 116-114 Warriors lead in less than four minutes of game time. The only thing that could cool the lineup was when Curry got ejected at the 1:14 mark for throwing his mouthpiece (video here).
For the Warriors, who held on to win 122-120 on a go-ahead layup by Poole with 2.1 seconds left, many were wondering if they had discovered a new variation on their vaunted “Death Lineup.” The original “Death Lineup” came around the time of Golden State’s first championship under Kerr in 2015 and featured Curry, Thompson, Green, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala. A modified version in subsequent years featured Kevin Durant in place of Barnes (a lineup nicknamed “The Hamptons Five” since the other four players had gone to recruit Durant as a free agent in The Hamptons).
The reason those lineups were so lethal was because there was shooting, playmaking, length, and switchability at all five positions. While the new lineup admittedly has three players who are 6-foot-4 or shorter (Curry, Poole, and DiVincenzo), it carries most of the same attributes (though Poole’s defense still leaves a bit to be desired).
According to data on NBA.com, the Curry-Poole-DiVincenzo-Thompson-Green lineup has played just nine total minutes together this season but is now outscoring opponents by a blistering 34.3 points per 100 possesssions. That hyper-small lineup is obviously very vulnerable on the glass and in the paint and may have only worked against the Grizzlies since Steven Adams was out with injury and fellow big man Jaren Jackson Jr. fouled out in the fourth quarter. But the Warriors might continue to have success with that five-man group in certain situations and also have lengthy 3-and-D wing Andrew Wiggins (who was out Wednesday with a non-COVID illness) to work into their lineups for an added wrinkle.