clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Warriors blow by Lakers after Klay Thompson and Kobe Bryant duel

It was my first time watching Kobe Bryant play live. It did not disappoint. Neither did the Golden State Warriors as they trampled the Los Angeles Lakers en route to a 127-104 victory.

Ezra Shaw

It's my first recap of the new season so bear with me as this one is going to get a little long. And on a Saturday night so lots of this will probably go unread. Regardless, it was a really fun game between a team that's about at rock bottom against another that's grown accustomed to that feeling but is now getting used to the taste of success.


Unprompted and almost immediately as he sat down to talk to address the media, Steve Kerr said with a chuckle, "Our backcourt isn't bad, eh? It's good to have good players." Kerr doesn't take himself too seriously in quoting what he and many others believe as the best backcourt in the NBA that also doubles as the home to the best shooting guard.

A quick aside: I think the debate is rendered less meaningful when noting that a position-less lineup of players is the most efficient way to build a strong team. When your argument is James Harden versus the likes of Wesley Matthews, a wash-up Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, perhaps changing the premise itself would lend to a much more constructive debate.

Back to Klay Thompson and for those who care about such things, the third quarter resembled a maniacal fight between an aging master of his craft throwing his entire trove of weaponry in a flurry versus a rival that slowly and methodically kept attacking despite the jabs and roundhouses landed. I lost track of my notes for the entire 12-minute period, jaw on the floor disbelieving the action that was taking place in what seemed like heaven (I'll have another piece on my reaction to what was my first time watching Kobe Bryant live).

For an entire quarter, the battle took place between the two shooting guards. Kobe won if only on aesthetics and pure difficulty of the shotmaking, finishing with 19 points on 9-14 shooting in the third. Steve Kerr never panicked. There was no successive timeouts taken to stem the flow. He knows what he has. Bryant would vanish in the fourth quarter not sinking a single bucket. Klay Thompson would sink more threes, even accentuating one with a hip thrust with the three finger guns. Stephen Curry would mix and dance around Laker defenders, finding gaping passing lanes against a Laker team fatigued playing their third game in four nights.

The Golden State Warriors are the deeper, more talented, and smarter team on most nights. Kerr knows this and the Warriors as a team know this. So all he can say after a game like that is, most of the time, his guys are just better.

Leftover Observations:

1. Klay made his first shot on a fake-pass in the lane into a finger roll layup falling to his right. A rather innocuous play but for those who love the "Klayup" phrase, the time is nigh for its retirement. Then in the already epic third quarter, Thompson received a pass downcourt on a fastbreak, had Kobe trailing and a big protecting the rim. He smoothly drove to his left, up-faked with one hand, drew the foul on a flying Kobe, and finished in one fluid motion. We might not see that again but it speaks to the composure Klay now possesses when he's near the basket. He later finished with a lefty reverse layup. It wasn't just a matter of him feeling comfortable because of the hot shooting night but might soon become a level of sustainability that will bump his game up several notches.

2. A small note but one worth tracking anyway: how often Thompson looks off Curry in transition. It happened again in the second quarter. Curiously enough, in the possession almost right after, Thompson found a streaking Andre Iguodala for a corner three. We know that Curry loves to dish to Klay when he's driving, and even had a gorgeous dime from almost fullcourt that threaded between Kobe and Jeremy Lin late in the fourth. It'll be interesting how long this fluky (we hope)  goes on.

3. Kerr on Barnes: "{Harrison Barnes} is so strong he can even guard the post so we looked into playing him at the four. I think Don Nelson would be proud." On a night when the Splash Brothers made it rain at Oracle, Barnes sneakily provided the team some excellent offense. He nailed a couple threes and even had a driving eurostep and-one finish at the basket. Barnes very much needs the spacing to develop into a solid offensive piece. It doesn't hurt that the Lakers couldn't tell right from left on more than half their defensive sequences. What was more comforting what the sight of Barnes contesting and challenging Kobe whenever he was asked to guard him. He even boxed out the likes of Carlos Boozer later in the game. An unsung part of his struggles last season was his lack of defensive growth. Barnes is long and quick enough to guard quicker players and stronger forwards. Perhaps if the offense comes, he's more honed in on the other end. Regardless of how sustainable his play was against the Lakers, it was welcoming to see it happen sooner than never.

4. Kerr mentioned either the word "depth" or "versatility" five separate times in his postgame presser. Even though Andre Iguodala comes off the bench, he played the third-most minutes of the team and it's obvious Kerr loves him. "The versatility of this roster is very unique. Most teams have these types of options. I thought the depth of our wing defenders and putting Andre on {Kobe} was good. It took him 28 shots to get 28 points." Brandon Rush didn't even get off the bench in a 20+ point blowout - though that might have been a product of his bad back. If Kerr wants offense he can theoretically go with Leandro Barbosa and Barnes to slash and spread the floor. If he wants defense, there's Livingston, Green and even Justin Holiday as options. And it doesn't hurt that most of the players are excellent on both sides of the ball, making offense-defense substitutions less necessary. Kerr experimented with several different rotations, even putting Green at the five in a particular five-minute segment. There's incredible depth on this team right now and the coaching staff will have fun tinkering with it all season.

5. The offensive scheme is much different this season (duh) but what strikingly remains is the post-up isolation play. Everyone outside of Curry had their own back-down isolation against a smaller player. Does that mean Mark Jackson is secretly pulling the strings in the background? Absolutely not. The isolations of last season had one goal in mind: to have the guy with the ball put the ball in the bucket. This season, whenever someone like Livingston, Green or Barnes has the ball posting up, there's either a guard-to-guard screen on ballside or a switch big-to-guard screen on the opposite side of the floor with a cutting slashing through the paint. I don't have the stats in front of me but it led to at least three to four wide-open layups. While it may look like the same play, the variations off the ball make it much more effective.

6. Jeremy Lin was simply awful in going 0-6 an five turnovers while unable to shed Curry's sticky hands and quck feet. Kerr complimented on his defense after the game. With Curry's reliance on offense lessened and minutes lowered, he might just have more energy to exert on the other end. It was certainly a good start tonight.

7. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to score 72 points, both reachig the 30-point milestone for the second time in their careers. They combined to shoot 24-37 (64.9 percent). Splash Brothers, indeed.

They get the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow in Portland at 6 pm PST.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Golden State of Mind Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Golden State Warriors news from Golden State of Mind