Golden State Warriors forward David Lee wound up on the wrong end of another JaVale McGee poster in the first three minutes of the Wizards’ 114-104 loss on Sunday. Lee made the mistake of trying to grab a rebound as the 7-foot-1 jumping jack center came flying toward the rim. McGee flushed the ball through the hoop with two hands and Lee spent the rest of the night plotting, planning his payback.
Lee had to wait until the third quarter, when he caught a pass from Monta Ellis and dunked over McGee. Lee got in McGee’s face, and as the two players ran down the floor, Lee patted McGee on the rear to let him know that he hadn’t forgotten that embarrassing dunk.
“He dunked on me in the first half and hung on the rim a little bit, a la Richard Jefferson,” Lee said after the game. “I told him, ‘I promise I will get your back for that.’ So finally, when I got him back, I ran after him a little bit and told him I got him back.”
Lee, an all-star last year with the New York Knicks, had 33 points and 12 rebounds, but he came away impressed with McGee, who had the best game of his career against the Warriors. McGee had 28 points and matched his career high with 18 rebounds and was a dominant force inside, mostly because he decided to stay in the paint.
Coach Flip Saunders and his staff have encouraged McGee to stay closer to the rim all season, but McGee often drifts to the foul line to get the ball, which often leads to problems when McGee puts his head down and decides to drive. The results are often entertaining, whether they end in an exciting dunk or layup, or even a bad miss or turnover. But against the smallish Warriors, McGee decided to abuse Lee and rookie Ekpe Udoh.
“He got around the basket,” Saunders said of McGee. “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell him. If he does that instead of hanging around the free throw line, he will have more nights like that. It opens up penetration and John [Wall] and Jordan [Crawford] will find him at the basket. He did a nice job, he really competed.”
McGee had seven offensive rebounds and even caught a nice alley-oop lob from Wall and dunked near the end of the first half. “He did great. He did exactly what we tried to preach to him the whole season. Every time you set a screen, you just roll hard, if we don’t find you and we miss the shot, your man is helping, you’re right there, getting tip shots and dunks,” Wall said. “He had a great game for us.”
McGee had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the first half and went 10 of 11 from the foul line. But his activity and energy eventually wore down as he had to sit for a long stretch in the fourth quarter as he battled fatigue. Saunders joked, “The second half, he couldn’t hardly get past half court.”
“It was tough, maybe like at the end of the second and the end of the third, I needed a little breather,” McGee said.
He had certainly earned it, after having another big game against the Warriors. Last April, McGee established career-highs with 25 points and 15 rebounds in a 112-94 win over Golden State.
“I tell you what,” Lee said, “McGee is a heck of a player. He’s still young, a little raw and when he figures it out, I think he’s just as athletic as anybody in the league. He deserves a lot of credit and played a great game.”