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Warriors’ Steve Kerr reacts to Jonathan Kuminga’s first playoff start

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With Gary Payton II out indefinitely, the Golden State Warriors were forced to replace their defensive star in the starting lineup. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr opted to call upon Jonathan Kuminga, and the rookie produced for his team in Game 3.

Kuminga recorded 18 points, two rebounds and one assist as the Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 142-112, to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. He went 8-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Payton suffered a left elbow fracture in Game 2 after taking a hard fall to the court when he was hit from behind by Dillon Brooks. Payton will miss at least the next two weeks while Brooks was suspended by the NBA for Game 3 for his actions.

Kerr turned to Kuminga in the starting lineup to replace Payton’s athleticism versus the Grizzlies. The team gave Kuminga the first opportunity to start and Kerr liked what he brought to the game.

I thought he played well. We did not start out the game well but I didn’t think it was JK’s fault. I didn’t think he did anything wrong. He might have had a turnover there but we were just too frenetic to start the game. We had a bunch of turnovers and they hit three long 3s at the end of the shot clock and got that early lead. So, slow start but as I said, we settled down after that.

Kuminga became the youngest player in NBA history to start a playoff game at 19 years, 213 days. He was also just the fourth teenager to score at least 18 points in the postseason, joining Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Carmelo Anthony.

The addition of Kuminga to the starting lineup gave the Warriors another athletic scoring option and the move appeared to pay off. The team went to Kuminga in Game 2 when Payton was injured so it appears the seventh pick will continue to see a larger role in the series.

Kuminga has impressed throughout the season with the Warriors and that production is continuing in the playoffs. The opportunities Kuminga received in the regular season served as a great experience for him and that is translating on the biggest stage in the game.

Game 4 will tip off on Monday at 10 p.m. EDT on TNT.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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