The Golden State Warriors didn't play the most complete game, but they played well enough to beat a struggling L.A. Lakers team in Kobe Bryant's final game at Oracle Arena.
TNT analyst Kenny Smith suggested that this game would involve a gradual progression toward a blowout, but that's not exactly how the Warriors tend to pull away from teams — it's a sort of sudden burst of dominance that the rest of the NBA must have come to expect at this point but simply can't avoid.
That was certainly the case in tonight's 116-98 win at home.
The Warriors extended a three point halftime lead to 20 by the nine minute mark in the fourth quarter after shooting 65% during the third quarter. During the approximately nine minute period between the 5:40 mark in the third and the nine minute mark of the fourth, they shot 12-for-15 (80%) while holding the Lakers to 33% shooting and forcing five turnovers, more than a turnover every other minute. It would be wrong to call that one of their trademark third quarter beatdowns as it wasn't particularly spectacular and really wasn't necessarily the small ball squad that did the bulk of the damage as they had Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli on the floor for most of that time.
Of course, Stephen Curry led the way for the Warriors, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 8-for-16 3-point shooting, including 11 points in the third quarter before getting the chance to rest during the final period.
So Steph trades a 2 for a 3. https://t.co/6FORHeODx0— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 15, 2016
Curry carried the Warriors through a rough first half, scoring 15 points on 5-for-10 3-point shooting. But take out Curry's hot shooting and the other Warriors shot just 31.42% from the field in the first half, giving the reigning MVP very little support in mounting a 52-49 halftime lead.
Warriors w/ only 8 assists on 16 made field goals. Flow & rhythm of offense reflects that... Shooting 34% at half vs Lakers.— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) January 15, 2016
Bryant scored 6 of his 8 points in the first half and finished among four Lakers to lead the team in assists with three. But it was the post play that kept the Lakers in the game in the first half: the Lakers killed the Warriors in points in the paint in the first half, more than doubling their output down low by a 26-12 margin.
But this is what great teams do: they figure out how to beat inferior teams even if it takes a while for them to get going.