Oh my god. If you were lucky enough to miss that one, I am beyond envious.
Los Angeles has always been a tricky place for the Golden State Warriors to play. First we were beyond bad when the Los Angeles Lakers were on top, then by the time we got good and they were bad, the nightlife was too tempting.
Usual reason: It's LA. The Warriors like LA for reasons that can distract them.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 19, 2017
Tonight's bonus reasons: No Curry, no Draymond, no Livingston, no Pachulia. https://t.co/71pleWxsYL
Coming in, the big news was a celebration - that’s right, it was assistant coach Bruce Fraser’s birthday! Before the game I mused what a ‘hungover coaches’ game might look like.
Kerr changes starting lineup
We saw the good and bad of McGee. He finished some nice plays around the rim, but teammates forced lobs and poor passes leading to turnovers. And on defense he was unsurprisingly unable to cover Brook Lopez stretching the floor, or switch out onto ball-handlers.
It’s almost as if they’d spent the last 48 hours being force-fed highlight videos ‘Clockwork Orange-style’ of what a great player looks like.
The Lakers were looking young and spry, playing defense and executing offensively. The Warriors needed a jolt.
Enter Omri Casspi.
It still amazes me just how many layups off cuts he gets. Simple, effective, purposeful movement —he obviously didn’t get the memo about whose night it was.
The Warriors proceeded to reel off a 22-6 run to finish the first quarter. Durant finally got to the line to put some points on the board with three minutes to go after starting 0-6. Nick Young hit a couple of patented Swaggy threes and it looked like the Warriors had settled down.
Warriors bench struggles
Casspi opened the second quarter with a nice layup, but overall the Warriors reserves started off looking their age against a more agile Laker squad. As the years go by, trust me the hangovers are harder to shake.
Then Thompson hit a three from Steph Curry range! Were we about to see an awakening?
The game began to descend into the mire, as neither team could make a bucket, and turnovers began to mount.
Finally late in the half Durant got a nice pair of and-1s to fall. But Larry Nance Jr ended the half by exacting a large measure of revenge for an early block by Durant.
The half closed at with the Warriors leading 57-53, with Durant shooting 3-11 and Thompson 3-10, and a whole lot of hoopla to come.
The halftime show
Basketball royalty was out in full force for the half time show - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Allen Iverson were all in attendance amongst many others. Nice to see them come out for Bruce Fraser’s birthday.
Magic Johnson strode out onto the floor and gave a speech about the greatest to ‘ever wear the purple and gold’. A bit self congratulatory I thought, but he was pretty damn good.
Oh, he meant Kobe Bryant? Well, if you want lots of content about him it’s out there. And there’s a lot of it.
For my part he leaves a complicated legacy. On the one hand...
On the other...
Kobe's basketball talents were nothing short of mesmerizing and once-in-a-lifetime, but damn, we really just sweep the whole rape thing under the rug don't we— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) December 18, 2017
Yeah. It sure is weird to see such veneration at the height of the #metoo movement.
How the Warriors paid tribute to Kobe Bryant
The Warriors stayed out to see the ceremony. This robbed them of the usual halftime talk, but to be fair if the coaches were out the night before all they probably wanted to do was crawl under a duvet anyway.
The players, who recently talked about what Bryant meant to them, seemed hellbent on honoring his legacy with stagnant offense and chucking up whatever shot they could find.
The last block was so vicious Bell stood over him, but unfortunately Ingram had gone down hurt. This was not a good look and Kerr looked mightily displeased.
It was later revealed that the major offense was not sprinting up back court...
Steve Kerr, noticeably frustrated, said postgame that he's trying to get Jordan Bell to consistently run hard down the court. Here's the full quote: pic.twitter.com/Y6nWNR9Udz— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) December 19, 2017
Kevon Looney entered the game and had an immediate impact, with a succession of layups and this dunk.
This jolted the Warriors back to life again as Thompson hit a couple of shoots, and Durant got another and-1 lay-in coming off a timeout play. Casspi hit another cutting layup, but Kuzma nailed a late three pointed to bring the Lakers within one at the close.
Bricks galore in the fourth
Casspi and West led the charge early in the fourth playing some nice two-man basketball developing chemistry reminiscent of Ian Clark.
Meanwhile Iguodala came up with a couple of big dunks. First he went coast-to-coast for this nice finish.
Then he came up with a big follow dunk after another period of intense brick laying across the board. I mean seriously there enough bricks being chucked out there to construct a monument to Bryant not just figuratively, but literally.
With around five minutes to go the Warriors were stuck in another close game with these young Lakers. Durant finally made a three, but Julius Randle was causing trouble down low, bullying his way to the line. Fortunately his free throw shooting left something to be desired.
The Warriors were playing in fits and starts. Thompson made a three, then missed one. Durant blocked a 3-pointer, then turned it over. He played some good defense to force a miss, and then promptly turned it over holding the ball long enough to be awarded with a 24 second violation.
At this point, Durant had 22 points on 23 shots and Thompson 17 points on 22 shots.
In a moment that almost had me choking on my cornflakes, the Lakers commentators drinking that Kobe Kool-Aid all game long, started remarking on efficiency. I mean, come on now.
Finally it looked like the Warriors broke the deadlock with a Durant turnaround jumper putting them up 102-97 with a minute left.
But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came right back with a 3-pointer, and Ingram tied it up on the drive after another Thompson miss.
As the clock ticked down all I could think was please not overtime, please not overtime.
Durant misses. Overtime.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had enough of this game.
Kobe leaving his own night early is the most LA thing ever. pic.twitter.com/oqSlWBOYxk— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 19, 2017
Durant finally wakes up in overtime
Last time out, the Warriors benefitted from a Curry takeover to ice the game. Since he’s been out, Durant has stepped up and it was no different here.
It wasn’t all easy though. After Durant opened with a three, Thompson opened with a three second violation.
Lonzo Ball tied up the game with a couple of buckets. Durant answered with another three and a vintage post turnaround fadeaway jumper.
But a Kuzma three and a Lonzo Ball drive put the Lakers up 113-112 with just a minute to go.
Out of the timeout the Warriors ran a beautiful play that led to West feeding Durant, cutting backdoor, and getting to the line. The coaches clearly had shaken off their funk.
Despite some good defense on the ensuing possession, the Lakers grabbed the board. Randle ended up back at the line. Fortunately for the Warriors, his free throwing shooting betrayed him, airballing the second.
As Durant dribbled up the court with the score tied at 114 all I could think was please not double overtime, please not double overtime.
This time he delivered, nailing the shot with six seconds left.
On the other end, West sealed the game with a huge block on a driving Lonzo Ball.
Now we can seal off this monstrosity and never look at it again. What we play the Lakers in a couple of days again? Godammit.
In the end, Durant finished with a pretty nice line of 36 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks, and proved that highlight videos can look pretty nice if you cut out all the bricks.
Vote for your Warrior Wonder against the Lakers
This poll is closed
Andre Iguodala (9 pts, 8 rbs, 4ast, 2stl)
Omri Casspi (14 pts, 10 rbs)
David West (6 pts, 4 rbs, 2 ast, 2 blocks)
Kevon Looney (8 pts, 7 rbs in 21 minutes)