A profoundly short-handed Warriors team faced the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, looking to end their two-game losing streak. The Warriors were once again without Stephen Curry, as he rehabs his sprained ankle. But now Curry was joined by Klay Thompson, who looks to miss a few weeks with a fractured right thumb, and Draymond Green as he continues to deal with a sore right shoulder. Despite missing these three All-Stars, along with David West and Patrick McCaw, the Warriors still picked up the 117-106 victory over the Lakers at Oracle Arena.
Kevin Durant, the one Warriors All-Star still standing, did his part and led all scorers with 26 points while also handing out 6 assists. It wasn’t a flawless performance by Durant (he went 1/7 from three-point range and turned the ball over five times) but it was more or less what you’d expect from him and an essential part of a Warriors victory.
What was more interesting, especially as the playoffs inch closer, was the performance of the non-Durant Warriors players. While Andre Iguodala played well in his return after missing the past three games, it was the other Warriors who stepped up in this win over the visiting Lakers.
Swaggy P’s spectacular second half
Nick Young was the Warriors’ second-leading scorer, putting in 18 points against his former team. Inserted into the starting lineup with Curry and Thompson out, Young figured to be the likely candidate to pick up the shots they normally take. This was definitely the case as Young attempted a season-high 13 field goals against the Lakers, including eight attempts from three-point range.
In the first half, nothing went right for Young offensively, as he missed all four of the shots he attempted. It would have been very easy for him to get discouraged and start making bad plays or not try to force the issue on offense. But the Warriors’ guard kept at it and his game picked up in the second half. Young scored all 18 of his points in the second half, going 6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-6 from three-point range.
What the Warriors need from Young in the playoffs is to come in and shoot the open shot. He might miss some but they want him putting it up when he gets a good look. Against the Lakers on Wednesday night, Young showed that he could be that person and forget about his misses when the time came.
Casspi’s best performance in months
While Young was the second-leading scorer behind Durant, it was Omri Casspi who made the biggest non-Durant impression on Wednesday night.
Casspi has found himself out of Steve Kerr’s rotation of late but he put in his best performance since February 12th against Phoenix, scoring 15 points off the bench for the Warriors while also grabbing 7 rebounds. Casspi was constantly driving to the basket, slicing his way through the Lakers’ defenders and converting at the rim.
Another and-1 pic.twitter.com/HlpzBhC4vI— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 15, 2018
Casspi’s performance on Wednesday night was reminiscent of his best stretch of basketball this season, when he scored in double figures in five consecutive games in the month of December, including a couple double-doubles.
Casspi probably won’t be a major part of the Warriors’ playoff rotation but a game like this — which harkens back to his best games this season — perhaps shows that he can pick up a few minutes here and there. But it was good to see Casspi have a game like this after struggling for much of the season.
Cook and Livingston pick up the backcourt slack
Joining Young in the Warriors’ starting lineup was Quinn Cook. While Cook has struggled a bit in the previous four games, he looked much better against the Lakers. Cook scored a season-high 13 points on Wednesday night, including a three-pointer that snapped a 0-for-11 stretch from long range for him.
Once again, the best thing about Cook’s game was his lack of hesitation, attacking and taking the open shot even though he hadn’t been converting recently. If Cook is going to become a rotation player in the NBA, he needs to keep that mentality. Eventually the shots will start falling, but he has to be sure and take them when he gets the chance.
Meanwhile, Shaun Livingston remained in his familiar spot of coming off of the bench and playing with the second unit. But it was a good matchup for Livingston as he would be playing against guards who were undersized (Isaiah Thomas) or inexperienced (Lonzo Ball). With these more favorable conditions, Livingston had his best offensive performance since early January, scoring 13 points against the Lakers while going 6/8 from the field.
Livingston banks it in while drawing the foul! pic.twitter.com/3o0MceF1V7— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 15, 2018
Livingston is someone the Warriors will need in the playoffs, providing offense when Curry is resting on the bench. Because of his length, Livingston is also someone who can attack and exploit the shorter point guards of the Warriors’ opponents.
This closing stretch of the season is the time for Livingston to, like Iguodala, get on track and round into form. If Wednesday night’s game is any indication, the veteran guard will be more than ready once the playoffs begin.
Pachulia and Looney form an impressive front court tandem
The Warriors went with a more traditional starting lineup against the Lakers, playing two proper big men in Zaza Pachulia and Kevon Looney. The two had their hands full dealing with a capable Lakers front court. Julius Randle scored a team-high 22 points while grabbing 10 rebounds while Brook Lopez scored 20 points and blocked five Warriors shots.
That said, those two did the bulk of their damage in the first half, allowing the Lakers to keep things close as the game was tied at halftime. What this says is that their impressive nights were mostly about out-of-the-ordinary starts to the game that were followed by regressions to the mean.
Looney did perhaps the best against Randle, playing good defense against the Lakers big while scoring 11 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Two of Looney’s points came in the fourth quarter on this layup after an Iguodala strip.
Defense to offense pic.twitter.com/tayve0y6kN— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 15, 2018
Looney led the Warriors with a +/- of 17, reflecting how his presence on the court against the Lakers did not take anything away and allowed the Warriors to play their best. Meanwhile, Pachulia has his second-consecutive good game, posting another double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds along with a season-high tying 5 assists.
Looney, Pachulia, and the rest of the Warriors’ bigs were impressive in one particular category against their Lakers—their rebounding. On Wednesday night, the Warriors out-rebounded the Lakers 50-33. The Lakers usually average 46 rebounds per game including nearly 11 on the offensive glass, but the Warriors held the visiting Lakers to just six offensive rebounds.
One way to beat the Warriors is to dominate the offensive glass and get second-chance points. Against the Lakers, the Warriors showed that perhaps they can keep a team from getting those extra possessions. It will be much tougher to do that in the playoffs as opposed to a mid-March game against the Lakers, but if the Warriors can be just slightly better in that aspect of the game, they become a much tougher team to stop.
Who was the Warrior Wonder in the victory against the Lakers?
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