A 37-point night from Steph Curry wasn’t enough to offset 20 Golden State Warriors turnovers, 15 of them in the second half, in a Los Angeles Lakers 103-100 victory in the NBA Western Conference play-in game between the seventh and eighth place finishers in the regular season.
Going into the game, the expected matchup was the Lakers’ size versus the Warriors’ speed and shooting. It played out as advertised; however, in the first half and for much of the second Golden State’s tenacious defense was almost surprisingly effective in the paint against Los Angeles. The first quarter featured little from either Curry or James, each scoring five points, with James resting his sore ankle for close to half of the period. The Warriors started the second quarter with both Curry and Draymond Green, who, in vintage Green fashion, both played superb defense and drew a technical foul, catching an extended breather yet maintained their lead. James, although not limping, was clearly less than his usual self, lacking in force and drive. Curry and Green reentered the game with 6:14 left in the quarter. Curry hit his first three with exactly four minutes left in the quarter, giving Golden State a 43-33 lead. Curry drained another three as the buzzer sounded, the Warriors leading 55-42 at the half. Curry was Golden State’s leading scorer with fifteen points. James was held to six points, and although on the floor for much of the second quarter seldom figured in the play.
The Lakers came out with energy for the second, cutting into the Warriors’ lead but never quite catching Golden State. Los Angeles’ physical play caused multiple Warriors fouls; Golden State was into the penalty with more than nine minutes left in the third quarter. Nevertheless, the Warriors maintained their lead throughout. A disturbing trend for Golden State was frequently turning the ball over against Los Angeles’ heavy defensive pressure; this was a major contributor to the Warriors’ lead having been trimmed to two points going into the fourth quarter. James played noticeably better throughout the second half, eventually finishing the game with a triple-double (twenty-two points, eleven rebounds, ten assists).
The Lakers scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, giving them their first lead of the game at 81-79 with 11:04 left. Los Angeles padded its lead to seven at one point, Golden State continuing its sloppy ball control. As the period progressed, the Warriors gradually calmed down and regained their rhythm, tying the game at 91 with 5:40 left. James, ignoring a previously set limit on time played, returned to the court with 4:43 to go. Golden State regained the lead with less than four minutes left. James was driving to the basket with 2:07 left when a hard foul by Green sent him crashing to the floor. A flagrant foul was debated, but ultimately not called. James tied the game at 98 with a free throw at 2:04 left.
The Lakers briefly regained the lead on an Anthony Davis drive, but Curry re-tied it at 100 with 1:23 left. James then shot a three with the shot expiring and exactly one minute left in the game to retake the lead at 103-100. Neither team scored again. The Warriors had the ball with 2.1 seconds left but were unable to take a shot.
So what’s next? The Lakers are now the seventh seed, which is where they were anyway, and now prepare to play the Phoenix Suns starting this Sunday. The Warriors will play the Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco this Friday to determine who will be the eighth seed in the conference, said team taking on the Utah Jazz in the playoffs. Although it is unlikely to transpire, the action and drama this game possessed definitely has one dreaming of a Warriors-Lakers Western Conference final.
(Editor’s Note: What did you think of this game? Even me, a lifelong Lakers fan currently in exile, got a little into it after the roommate had it blaring. Where do you think each time will go now? Which team (in general) do you think will win the championship? Let us know in the comments.)