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Frustration in LA: Warriors fall to Lakers 97-117

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The Golden State Warriors inaugural loss to the Los Angeles Lakers comes early this year.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Winning the second leg of a back-to-back on the road is a tough task, especially while shooting 15.6% from three and committing 20 turnovers. Though the Golden State Warriors were able to turn what was a 21 point deficit into just six points late in the third, they were never able to gain a lead, and they lose yet again to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.

First Quarter

The Warriors’ first shot of the game was a Draymond Green pull-up three that was way off the mark, and it unfortunately started a trend that would follow the Dubs for the rest of the night. They missed seven of their eight attempts from behind the line, with Andre Iguodala making the only one with a buzzer beater to end the quarter.

The Lakers actually shot worse than the Warriors from beyond the arc, making just one of their 10 attempts, but they capitalized off the Warriors eight turnovers to end the quarter up 24-15. Despite his ill-advised three to start the quarter, Green was extremely active on the boards, grabbing six rebounds in a little less than 10 minutes of play, two of which were offensive.

Second quarter

After a 15 point first quarter, the lowest scoring quarter on the season so far, the Warriors more than doubled their output in the second, finishing with 34 points in second frame. They also gave up 41 points to the Lakers and headed into the locker room down 16 points. The second quarter also had the most memorable moment of the night, when Larry Nance Jr. baptized David West early in the quarter:

West doesn’t get his arms up in time and ends up on the wrong side of a “Dunk of the Year” worthy poster in a moment representative of how the rest of the night would go. Warriors super-rookie Kevon Looney would be the bright spot of the quarter, scoring six points in a little over four minutes of playtime. Shaun Livingston also did not miss a shot in the quarter, scoring ten points and dishing out two dimes as he played the entirety of the second.

Third Quarter

Despite getting down 20 early in the third, the Warriors came their closest to getting the lead in this quarter, but Ian Clark missed open threes on back-to-back offensive possessions that would have made it a one possession game.

Klay Thompson seemingly finally broke out of whatever daze he was in after finally making a three, interestingly one that was extremely contested compared to the more or less open shots he was bricking earlier. His two straight threes pushed the Warriors to within single digits, and then this happened:

Important to note that this oop was Kevin Durant’s 19th and 20th point, pushing his 20+ point game scoring streak to 70 consecutive games. This moves him past Michael Jordan and ties him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the sixth-highest of all time.

He needs three more consecutive 20 plus point games to move into the number four spot, with only Wilt Chamberlain’s two 126- and 92-game streaks, and Oscar Robertson’s 79-game streak above him. After failing to close the gap in the closing minutes of the third, the Warriors lapsed mentally and allowed LA to end the quarter up 11.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter was the loss within the loss, as Steph Curry’s 157 consecutive game three-point streak ended with a whimper, as James Michael McAdoo checked in for the ice-cold two-time MVP late in the fourth. The streak lasted nearly two years, starting on November 11, 2014, and as it became clear the Warriors were going to lose this game, I began hoping he would make just one three to keep it going.

The streak created records of its own, as Curry had made a three in 196 straight games including the playoffs, and 116 straight regular season-road games. Andre Iguodala continues to look completely shook in transition, which I can’t help but wonder is because of a certain block by a certain player in a certain playoff series last summer.

The Warriors ended the night shooting 5 of 32 from behind the arc, committing 20 turnovers, and giving up 117 points to the Lakers. Kevin Durant led the team with 27 points on 62.5% shooting, going 10 for 16 for the night, and continues to shine as the Warriors’ best player.

Final Conclusions

Make no mistake that this is still Curry’s team, but Durant, an MVP and perennial All-Star, has somehow exceeded my expectations. While the Warriors pride themselves on team play, and they have been able to reap massive benefits from that style (one of which was attracting a free agent like Durant), in ugly games like this, he should almost certainly be taking more shots.

In any case, it’s important not to read too much into an early November game. The specter of last year hangs over this team, and every game will (especially the losses) spawn narratives like a Cambrian explosion.

This isn’t limited to just the talking heads on the mainstream networks, as many Warriors fans are ever-quick to arrive at drastic conclusions even at this early stage of the season. It was a bad game, but bad games happen. It was clear that the Warriors had expended a lot of emotion and energy in their home rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and perhaps expended some emotion and energy exploring LA as well.

Missing more or less open shots is one of the most frustrating things at any level of play, but the issue is when those misses seep into the other areas of play. Missing good shots turns into forcing bad ones, which lead to turnovers and all of a sudden the team is down a double-digit hole on the road, in the second night of a back-to-back.

This isn’t to say there aren’t legitimate questions or concerns about what has been seen so far. For example, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Kerr taking early timeouts in the first quarter in rapid succession. I would rather let these guys play together and develop more on-court chemistry, even at the cost of deviating from the playbook slightly or having to play through an opposing run.

Then again, he is a championship winning coach with better knowledge about this team than anyone outside the organization. There are areas that the Warriors must improve on if they want to accomplish their overriding goal of winning another championship, and thankfully they have the whole rest of the season to work on those deficiencies.