If the Warriors seem like a desperate team, it’s because they are. One loss away from their season, and potentially their dynasty, coming to an end, they’ve pulled all the punches.
After spending the series taking the high road, including outright saying officiating was the reason Golden State was losing, Steve Kerr went low and accused the Lakers of flopping after a loss in Game 4.
For clarity, here’s the exact quote from Kerr where he talked about gamesmanship, flopping and embellishment.
Steve Kerr on the Lakers: "They are a team that plays with a lot of gamesmanship, they understand how to generate some calls. I thought they took some flops and were rewarded." pic.twitter.com/X4CakxfNIx— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) May 9, 2023
Again, this came roughly 36 hours after he said it was their own shortcomings that cost them games and steered the opposite direction. But for a series that already had plenty of external discussion about officiating, Kerr going down this route was like throwing a match into a powder keg.
His tactic worked as the Lakers shot their second-fewest free throws of the entire season in Game 5 as they lost. Before, during and after the game, though, the Lakers were not taking the bait and making it a discussion about officiating and flopping.
The closest they came was both LeBron and Darvin Ham each reiterating they don’t teach flopping. With that, though, it felt like things would fade into the background. Golden State played the officiating card, won a game and that should have been that.
Well, it appears the Warriors really aren’t done. On his Instagram on Thursday, JaMychal Green — who was played off the court in this series and only appeared in garbage time in Game 5 — called out LeBron for his comments about flopping.
This all begs the question of just why? Kerr pulling the officiating card was predictable, even if it was directly contradictory to comments earlier in the series. He’s not the first and won’t be the last coach to pull that card in a playoff series, and it was some gamesmanship of his own.
But to keep the narrative going and to specifically call out LeBron? Well, to steal a phrase from a famous broadcaster, that’s a bold strategy, Cotton!
Historically, challenging LeBron hasn’t been a decision with a great success rate, but specifically this postseason, poking the bear has led to basketball fatalities.
You could pretty easily point out that the Warriors employ Draymond Green and probably shouldn’t point fingers about flopping. The Lakers wouldn’t be faulted for just gesturing wildly in the general area of Draymond next time they were asking about flopping, but they’ve taken the high road here, which is better than I could do.
There’s probably a point of diminishing return, and going at LeBron James might be crossing it. LeBron won’t take things personally, as we learned last series, but it will heighten the collective senses of the team around him, which we also learned last season.
The Warriors are a perfectly good-enough team to win this series on talent alone. Going low, attempting to get a favorable whistle and poking a bear along the way all feel like unnecessary risks in trying to get to their end goal.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.