The Golden State Warriors lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, falling by three points in the first game of the play-in tournament. Had LeBron James not hit the kind of miraculous shots that define the careers of all-time greats, the Warriors might have pulled off the road upset against the defending champs.
Despite the sting of defeat, the Warriors should be proud of and encouraged by the way they played. It was a strong performance. If they play that well on Friday, they should easily beat the Memphis Grizzlies. If they play that well next week, they should put a scare into the top-seeded Utah Jazz.
But on Wednesday it wasn’t quite enough to get by James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the Lakers. So let’s revisit the keys to victory from my preview to see how it went down.
The key: Steph Curry score 40+ points and control the game.
The outcome: Curry didn’t quite hit the 40-point mark, instead settling for 37. But it was an efficient 37, as the chef shot 12-for-23 and converted on 6-of-9 from deep. Most importantly, he did control the game. The Warriors led by 13 at halftime, largely because Curry’s gravity was opening up the court for his teammates. And they nearly won it in the second half, largely because Curry put the team on his back as his teammates went ice cold.
In a game that featured Anthony Davis and a triple-double from LeBron James, you could make a strong case that Curry was the best player on the court. He certainly controlled the game for most of it, even if it was James who won the game with what looked like a signature Curry shot.
Grading the key: 8.5 out of 10.
The key: Make being the smaller team an advantage instead of a disadvantage, either by pushing in transition or being defensively aggressive.
The outcome: It seemed like the Warriors got out and ran a lot, but they didn’t actually have a lot of success there, as they finished with just 9 fast break points. But they used their size disadvantage to be scrappy and hustle for loose balls, and kept pace with the Lakers on the glass.
It was a far cry from the small ball that defined their dynasty, but there’s a reason that Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell both had negative plus/minuses.
Grading the key: 4.5 out of 10.
The key: Players not named Steph Curry make a lot of threes.
The outcome: Curry led all players with 6 triples, but his teammates combined for 9 on their own. The entire Lakers team had just 10.
Kent Bazemore led the way with 3, while Jordan Poole and Juan Toscano-Anderson chipped in with a pair each. It wasn’t a performance that made you forget about Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, but it was solid.
Grading the key: 6.5 out of 10.
The key: Disciplined defense on LeBron James and Anthony Davis — don’t foul, and don’t get eaten alive by the pick and roll.
The outcome: The Warriors committed 21 fouls, which is about what we expect from them. They gave up 13 free throws to James and Davis which, honestly, is a pretty solid showing. And they held LA’s star duo to 17-for-44 shooting.
The Dubs should feel pretty good about the defense they put forth. It lost discipline as the game wore on, and was especially bad in the third quarter, but on the whole the performance was strong.
Grading the key: 7 out of 10.
Almost good enough for a win. Almost.