SAN FRANCISCO — In Game 4, Warriors coach Steve Kerr downsized by starting forward Otto Porter Jr., deploying Draymond Green as a small-ball center, and sidelining 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney. On Sunday, he wouldn’t let on whether he plans to stick with the switch in Game 5.
“I’m not going to give that away,” Kerr said Sunday. “I don’t like to talk about starting lineups before games.”
Porter Jr. helps stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting, but the change was surprising given Looney’s overall effectiveness and strong presence on the glass as he started the first three games. Looney ended up logging a series-high 28 minutes off the bench Friday. He grabbed 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive end, and finished a plus-21, best on the Warriors.
In the fourth quarter, Porter Jr. didn’t play, while Looney logged important minutes as the Warriors seized control.
“Loon is just crucial to everything we do,” Kerr said after the game. “He’s our best screener, our best rebounder, one of our smartest players. He’s always in the right spot.”
The starting lineup change clearly was not a demotion for Looney. Rather, Kerr said he is trying to optimize his personnel combinations and substitution patterns. The Warriors used nine players in Friday’s win.
“I’ll leave it at that,” Kerr said. “It’s very different from teams we had in the past where there might have been one decision to make: Are we going to play JaVale McGee or Zaza Pachulia? But kind of the core minutes, the big minutes were going to be played by the same guys.
“This feels a little bit different this year. There’s been a little bit more mixing and matching. I’m really proud of the group, everybody, for staying ready and staying prepared and not allowing that — the change and alterations from game to game — to bother them.”
Love the process
When discussing how Steph Curry maintains his conditioning at age 34, Kerr made a comparison to 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
“There’s a routine that not only is super-disciplined, but it’s really enjoyed each day,” Kerr said. “There’s a passion that comes with it, and that’s what sustains it over time. When you love something like those guys do, you work at it, you get better, and you just keep going.”
Curry and the Warriors had a chance to meet Federer when the team took a preseason trip to Shanghai in 2017. After Federer spoke inside the locker room, Green asked him, “How have you been doing this for 20 years?” Kerr called the response “simple, yet profound.”
“He said, ‘I love my daily ritual,’ ” Kerr recalled. “He said, ‘I get up, make my kids breakfast, drop them off at school, go train, and I’ve figured out the right training methods to keep me in the best position at my age. I love competing.’ He said, ‘But every single day, I put my head on the pillow at the end of the day and think, man, what a great day.’ ”
According to Kerr, Curry and Federer share a similar “zest for life” and “joy for the process” within their training regimens.
“I think of Steph a lot when I think of that story from Roger Federer,” he said.
Curry said his left foot feels “great” coming off his 43-point, 41-minute performance in Game 4. He will continue to receive treatment ahead of Game 5, but the concern surrounding the foot sprain he suffered in the final minutes of Game 3 seems to have subsided.