Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he would shuffle his starting lineup in the NBA Playoffs, and he wasn’t kidding. In Saturday’s win against the Grizzlies, Kerr started forward Jonathan Kuminga, a 19-year-old rookie who became the youngest player to start an NBA Playoff game in league history.
This time, the lineup shuffle was because of an injury to guard Gary Payton II. But Kerr didn’t have to go with Kuminga. He did, however, and Kumina responded, becoming just the fourth teenager in NBA history to score 18-plus points in an NBA Playoff game.
Kuminga joins an exclusive list comprised of Tony Parker, Carmelo Anthony, and the late, great, Kobe Bryant.
Kuminga got off to an uneven start on Saturday, hitting the Warriors’ first bucket on a rebound and put-back but turning the ball over twice. Kuminga also played stellar defense on Grizzlies guard Ja Morant early in the contest.
He ended his night with those 18 points on red-hot 8-for-10 shooting from the field, including some fourth-quarter garbage-time baskets. (He had 12 points in the final quarter.) Kerr sounded satisfied with Kuminga’s play, however. He seems to be a part of the playoff rotation now.
“I thought he played well,” Kerr said. “We did not start out the game well. But I didn’t think it was JK’s fault. He might have had a turnover there but we were just too frenetic to start the game.”San Franisco Chronicle
Kuminga has an opportunity to play an even larger role as these NBA Playoffs move forward. He’s just getting used to the environment, and so far, he’s done well. With his rapid growth during the regular season, it’s not a stretch to say he’ll likely learn quickly in the postseason, too.
I’ll be watching to see if Kuminga can actually pass Bryant and Parker, who both scored 18-plus points as teenagers three times. That would be special for the Warriors, who could really use Kuminga’s elite athleticism in these playoffs.
It would be special for Kuminga, too. He grew up idolizing Bryant when he was a youth — or as an even younger teenager — as he grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and there’s no better way to honor Bryant than on the NBA’s largest stage.