One of the more bizarre things about the Kings’ game seven loss to the Warriors was the lack of minutes that Davion Mitchell played.
Mitchell had put in a valiant effort for most of the series at making Steph Curry work, leading the rotation of different looks thrown out at history’s best shooter. He did such a terrific job that he was raising more than just eyebrows, he was raising questions—from here, from the Bay Area media—about whether the 35-year-old Curry could sustain this kind of workload and/or responsibility.
What was even more bizarre, and what bordered on absurdity, was that a grand total of zero reporters asked coach Mike Brown about this. That is, at first.
On Tuesday, Brown sat down in front of reporters for his exit interview, and there Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee asked him about the fact that he had Terence Davis stick around again to primarily guard Curry while Mitchell played a total of eight minutes in game seven.
“We also played TD (Davis) game six,” Brown began in a matter-of-fact tone. “That was our best game of the series — was game six — and TD guarded Steph.”
“We felt it gave Foxy and Malik a lot of room because TD obviously is a high-level shooter for us and he can catch fire at any time, and so going with him in game six was something I decided to do and it worked well.
“So going into game seven, I was going to stay the course and give that another opportunity. And like I said, I felt like it would have been great if we controlled the glass in game seven and also if we shot 59-percent from the free throw line — it’s tough to miss double-digit free throws in a deciding game seven against the NBA champs.
“And so — I know a lot of people have their own opinion — but in my opinion, those two areas that are controllables, we didn’t control and that cost us the game more than anything else because, if you look at the box score, Steph was the only one who scored and you can survive one guy getting his. There’s plenty of boxscores in playoffs where one guy got his because they’re elite players, but those other areas you got to clean up.”
Mike Brown makes two noteworthy and agreeable points there.
Game six was their best game as the Kings were able to take one at the Chase Center with their backs up against the wall by spreading the floor and playing smaller. Terence Davis was a part of that, his range spread the floor for playmakers and he was an effective defender, among a rotation that hounded Curry and others, using up all six of his fouls. And as Steve Kerr said after his lineup change earlier in the series, “when you play well in the playoffs and something good happens then you stick with it.”
The other fair point was that if the guys handled their work on the glass and hit their free throws—the things that are controllable—then this game could have gone differently.
However, at the end of the day, coach Brown didn’t really answer Biderman’s question.
Biderman specifically asked that in the face of Steph Curry scoring 50 points why didn’t he go to Mitchell, and the answer contained nothing about the second-year guard.
Talking about what’s considered controllable—which is always a justified emphasis—stopping Curry may not be, but dictating how many different looks he sees definitely is. And Brown has oft said of Curry and other elite offensive players that the only thing one can do is make him work and show different looks.
Why was Davis in charge of handling that assignment almost entirely on his own? That was actually different than game six, where there was more of a rotation. Davis played seven more minutes in game seven than he did in game six, where things worked so well; and some of the game seven time was mop-up duty, but Davis played roughly two minutes more in each of the first three quarters of the series finale compared to the game prior. Might a less varied assortment of defensive looks have contributed to the fact Curry went on a tear?
Also, let it not be lost on readers that 50 points is an indubitably extreme amount that goes well beyond Curry merely “getting his” because it was literally a historic performance.
And on Davis’ three-point shooting, credit is warranted for the fact the shooter went 3 of 5 from deep in the first half, but 1 of 4 in the second half with his one make coming within the final sixty seconds of the contest, when the outcome was decided. He wasn’t striking too much fear in the eyes of defenders.
Of course, Golden State defenders had to honor Davis—admittedly more than they would Mitchell, who went 2 of 8 from three in game five and combined for 0 of 4 in the final two contests—but if spreading the floor and spacing was such a priority, then another question comes up: Why stick with Sabonis so much when the matchup did not favor his game?
That concept is irrelevant to delve into much further. The point is that while Biderman made amends for the media’s failure to ask about this postgame on Sunday, Mike Brown still has left a shadow of mystery surrounding his game seven decisions as it pertained to the use of Davion Mitchell.
Nevertheless, as Brown and as De’Aaron Fox noted, losing was likely a necessity for achieving the big picture goal, and being able to have that done at the hands of the defending champions is, as Fox said, a “blessing” because of the firsthand lessons to learn from it. So maybe it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but one might be tempted to say they’d better admire the honesty to simply say that.