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Warriors coach Jackson defends playing small, David Lee

Nov 13, 2012, 8:42 PM EDT

David Lee AP

It wasn’t coach Mark Jackson’s plan to play a lot of small ball at Golden State — he wanted Andrew Bogut to be the guy in the middle. But with Bogut out for much of the young season, Jackson has gone small, playing David Lee and Carl Landry as the Warriors front line a lot.

And that has run into the issue that David Lee is struggling this season — he is scoring 6 fewer points per game and is shooting 8.2 percent worse than last season. Through seven games he has a career low PER (13.4, below the league average). And he’s never been a defensive stopper.

Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com asked Jackson the big question following a surrendered lead and loss to Denver the night before: Is David Lee hurting the team defensively?

”I wouldn’t think that he’s hurting us defensively at all. Has he played his best basketball? No. He’s played well in spurts. There have been nights when he’s been very good. He’s got to rebound better. We need him to rebound better. There’s no question about that.

“And I’m going to put pressure on him to be that go-to guy, finishing out possessions by rebounding the basketball. I would definitely say he’s not playing his best basketball. But I’m not concerned. Because I know how hard he works, he’s not pointing the finger at anybody else and he will respond.”

Actually, Lee is grabbing about the same percentage of rebounds now as he did last season.

The Warriors defense is actually about the middle of the pack in the league overall, but they are going to struggle on the boards with a Landry/Lee front line if they have to play a team like Denver with JaVale McGee.

Jackson also defended his decisions to play small, but it’s his best move — Golden State has had some good success with the Landry/Lee front line when it is paired with Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson (via 82games.com). Shooters, shot creators and guys that hustle along the front line can have success in the league.

If that and some small lineups can keep the Warriors hanging around .500 their playoff dream stays alive. But in a deep West they can’t dig a hole.

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