The difference in philosophies between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers could not have been more stark than in the game played between the two Sunday night. The Warriors played great defense. The Lakers gave up 136 points. The Warriors pushed the ball in transition. The Lakers made their living in the half court offense. The Warriors shared the ball. The Lakers deferred to Kobe Bryant. The final score of 136-115 makes clear which of these strategies is more successful.
I'll get to Kobe, but first, a bit about the Warriors: the team picked up right where they left off Saturday night, using their speed in transition to get good shots early in the clock. The Warriors had 54 points in the paint and 26 fast break points. Andrew Bogut and Marreese Speights both had big and efficient offensive games and were able to score easy buckets due to good penetration from the Warriors guards. Frankly, the Lakers defense will make any offense look fantastic, but the Warriors' ability to share the scoring load left the Lakers with nowhere to hide. All five starters for the Dubs scored in double digits.
Speaking of scoring, Kobe Bryant had a truly one-of-a-kind game. In three quarters of play, he had 44 points on 15-of-34 shooting, including 3-of-12 from three and 11-of-16 from the line. You just don't see those kind of shooting numbers in a box score every day. Most of his field goal attempts were tough, contested jumpers, as the combination of Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala defended him relatively well. Thompson may have done the best job of the three, as Barnes was the most susceptible to Kobe's savvy attempts to draw fouls and Iguodala was the most likely to overplay Bryant.
Granted, Kobe may not have a very talented squad to play with, but he is clearly hurting the Lakers by hucking so shamelessly. The best shots the Lakers got in this game were the ones where Kobe found a wide open teammate because the Warriors were overplaying him on the chance he might take his fourth or fifth shot in a row. He makes tough shots look effortless, but they are still tough shots. When every shot looks like a heat check, that might be an issue.
When Bryant takes this many shots, it's easy to overlook his defense, but it has been horrendous. Bogut scored his first basket of the game on a transition alley-oop where he beat Bryant down the floor. On one sequence, Stephen Curry caught the ball in the corner and found himself with Bryant switched onto him; Curry's eyes lit up and he attacked the basket. He sees Bryant as a mismatch, and that's just where Bryant is defensively right now.
It also is where Curry is offensively right now. He is just letting the game come to him. He had 30 points and 15 assists in three quarters, and he did so about as quietly as possible. He hit a few of his patented off-the-dribble threes, but he also got some easy layups and found his teammates in great spots to score.
The offense still seems to be a bit of a work in progress for the bench unit, and I think they could benefit from pushing the ball more, as the starters have been doing. Iguodala hit a couple of threes in the first half and they seemed to be less forced and more in rhythm than his shots in the previous few games. Speights has continued to excel, dropping in 24 points in 20 minutes and keeping active on the boards. Livingston and Rush are still taking some time to fit in, but the increased Livingston post-ups are looking promising. Rush had a couple of turnovers in the 2nd quarter, but they were the result of bad hands, not bad decisions.
By the end of the weekend, the Warriors have two blowout wins and more Kuzmic/Ezeli shared minutes than anyone could have ever imagined. Being able to rest the starters for a full quarter in two consecutive games before a four-game hiatus is a rare thing for a coaching staff to have, but it can only bode well for the Warriors heading into a home game against the Jazz before a tough road trip.