It was a tale of two halves for the Golden State Warriors.
After doing everything right over the opening 24 minutes, the Dubs were outplayed in the second half and lost 103-100 to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Play-In Tournament.
Stephen Curry did everything he could to get his team to win. He finished with 37 points, while Andrew Wiggins chipped in 21 with in the defeat. With the loss, the Warriors will have to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday to qualify for the playoffs. L.A. clinches the No. 7 seed with the victory and will play the Phoenix Suns in Round 1.
Golden State had a chance to tie it, but Curry couldn’t cleanly catch the inbounds pass, and the clock ran out.
It neck-and-neck in the second half, but the Lakers simply made more plays. With the game tied at 100-100, LeBron James hit a 30-footer as the shot clock was about to expire, which was the difference in the game.
The Dubs only have themselves to blame for losing this one. After leading by 13 at the half, Golden State committed 15 turnovers over the final 24 minutes, which allowed the Lakers to get back into it. The Warriors never trailed until there was 11:05 left in the fourth.
“We had five turnovers at half, and I think 10 in the third quarter ... we got away from ourselves. I didn’t even think our turnovers were forced,” head coach Steve Kerr said following the loss. “I thought we just made careless decisions with the ball, and that’s what turned the game. Loved the way our guys responded in the fourth, coming back to make big plays and take the lead and give ourselves a chance to win, but we just couldn’t quite pull it off.”
Kerr has coached against LeBron in four playoff series and several big regular season games. He wasn’t surprised that James came up big for the defending champions..
“We’ve played against him so many times over the years. We know how good he is, we know what he’s capable of,” Kerr said. “He just came through for them ... I loved our effort ... couldn’t be more proud of our team”
Golden State got off to a fantastic start. Kent Bazemore nailed a couple of 3s, and the defense held the Lakers to just 2-of-8 shooting, which led to an early 15-4 lead for the Warriors. Andrew Wiggins was particularly sharp early on. He had a great sequence where he blocked LeBron James and followed that up with a 3 on the ensuing possession.
Golden State held that lead despite getting zero points from the NBA’s leading scorer. But Curry would get involved towards the end of the first quarter. He had a gorgeous three-point play that put him to five points in the period.
The Warriors’ defense held the L.A. to just 30.4 percent shooting, and the Dubs took a 28-22 lead into the second.
The second unit was spectacular, with Curry and Green on the bench to start the second. Wiggins and Juan Toscano-Anderson kept up the aggressiveness and helped the Dubs push their lead to nine with 7:38 left in the quarter.
Golden State’s stellar first half continued when Steph got back into the game. Kerr’s small-ball lineup gave the Lakers fits on both ends of the floor. The Warriors’ movement on the offensive end caused major confusion for one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Curry finished with 15 points in the half while Wiggins chipped in with nine. The Dubs’ defense did the rest, holding L.A. to just 31.1 percent shooting (5-of-17 from 3) and capped off a tremendous first half with a 55-42 lead.
The defending champions came out of the locker room with a vengeance. Dennis Schroder and LeBron got to the foul line on three-straight possessions and spurred a 7-0 Lakers run that cut the lead to just six less than 90 seconds into the third.
Golden State kept getting in its own way early in the third. Green had multiple turnovers that led to transition points for L.A., and the lead dwindled to just one.
The Warriors were able to go on a run and increase the lead back up to 12, but the issues with carelessness on the offensive end allowed the Lakers to get back into the game. Golden State had eight turnovers in the period, and its lead was down to 79-77 going into the fourth.
The Warriors will have one last shot to guarantee themselves at least one seven-game series. They beat the Grizzlies on Sunday to advance to the 7 vs. 8 matchup and will have to do it again at home if they want their season to continue.