Gary Payton II starting pivotal Warriors-Lakers Game 4 showdown

GP2 starting Game 4 vs. Lakers in Dubs' latest lineup change originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Steve Kerr's surprise change to the Warriors' starting lineup in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals worked wonders as JaMychal Green scored 15 points in 13 minutes, replacing Kevon Looney ahead of a 27-point win against the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the move wasn't quite as impactful Saturday night in the Warriors' 30-point blowout Game 3 loss. Green was 1-of-5 shooting, missed all three of his 3-point attempts and didn't grab a single rebound. So with the Warriors down two-games-to-one, Kerr is switching it up once again in Game 4 at arena.

Kerr isn't bringing Looney back to the starting lineup, and Jordan Poole isn't stepping in as an offensive option. The Warriors' coach is turning to a player whose role surprisingly took a backseat in the first three games of the series. Gary Payton II will join Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green as the first five Warriors on the court.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported Monday that the Warriors intended for Payton to start, and while Kerr didn't confirm the news during his pregame press conference, he addressed the impact of the 30-year-old.

“He plays more like a big but he moves like a guard,” Kerr said Monday roughly 90 minutes before tip-off. “… He obviously helped us last year dramatically in the playoffs, so he has big-game experience, too. We trust him.”

Payton in the final seven regular-season games after completing his core/right adductor rehab averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds over 16.1 minutes. His production was nearly identical in the Warriors' first-round series win against the Sacramento Kings, averaging 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 16.1 minutes. In the first three games against the Lakers, Payton is averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds but only 11.2 minutes.

Seen by many as being the Warriors' ultimate weapon after losing him in the offseason to the Portland Trail Blazers before reacquiring him at the trade deadline, Payton played just under 13 minutes in the Warriors' Game 3 blowout loss. He scored eight points, went 4 of 7 from the field and added three rebounds, one steal and one block. Payton's plus/minus was a minus-15 in the loss.

This five-man group didn't play together at all in the regular season because of Payton's health and Wiggins being away from the team for the final two months of the regular season to tend to a family matter. They've played five games together in the playoffs and have shared the court for 19 minutes. Over that span, the Warriors have had a 7.8 net rating with a 120.0 offensive rating and 112.2 defensive rating.

So far, the 6-foot-2 Payton who guards all five positions and works out of the dunker spot on offense, has been put on Anthony Davis and LeBron James for a combined 52 seconds. However, he has defended starting guard D'Angelo Russell for 2:41, his most time on any Laker.

Russell has shot 2 of 6 from the field when guarded by Payton and missed his only 3-point shot. Last game, he came out on fire and Payton can be a solution in slowing him down.

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The former Warrior played almost all of the first quarter and scored 13 of the Lakers' 23 points, on 5-of-7 shooting and 3 of 4 from deep. All 21 of his points were scored in the first half as Russell went 8 of 12 from the field and 5 of 7 from long distance in the first two quarters. The Lakers are 6-1 when Russell scores 20 or more points this season, and 2-0 in such instances this postseason.

The Warriors will look to set a tone early to even the series, and Payton will serve as their latest problem solver.