It may have been a regular-season game against the 9th-best team in the Western Conference, but to Klay Thompson, Saturday night was like a Game Six. After all, it was another game against long-time rival LeBron James. The game was on national television, Jeff Van Gundy was there to throw shade at the Warriors, and Mike Breen was there to yell “Bang!” So the Golden State Warriors rode Klay down the stretch like he was a BMX bike, and the Warriors outlasted the frisky Los Angeles Lakers, 117-115.
Klay led the way with a game-high 33 points against the Lakers, who had a chance to tie when LeBron drew a three-shot foul with two seconds left, though calling it in the act of shooting was dubious, and borderline dubious. It didn’t matter because James LeBricked the first shot, then had to miss the last freebie on purpose. Amazingly, he corraled the loose rebound falling out of bounds, but his heave fell short and the Warriors escaped with a two-point win.
Steph Curry had 24 points and 8 assists in a game where his three-point shot wasn’t falling, but all of his finishes were. If he can get his floaters and triples to go in on the same night, the Warriors might really have something with this Curry kid. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga got in foul trouble, but still had 18 points and 9 rebounds in his 25 minutes. Clearly Andrew Wiggins was fired up by LeBron snubbing him in the All-Star draft, scoring 19 points and delivering a huge block on Bron late.
Wiggins also hit a tough three-pointer over LeBron late, in a play that gives Team Durant hope for next week’s All-Star Game.
James led the Lakers with 26 points and 15 rebounds, but did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 18 points. After halftime, he was 2-15, 1-10 in the final quarter. The much-maligned Russell Westbrook bounced back from fourth quarter benchings and months of trade rumors with a very solid game of 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, and only one turnover. Maybe the other stars need to throw him under the bus more often?
Anthony “Street Clothes” Davis had 16 points and three blocks, but only three points in the final quarter. We hope the NBA 75 voters were watching him and Klay tonight. The Lakers bench was huge however, with Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Talen Horton-Tucker combining for 42 points on 15-23 shooting.
Countless times in the fourth quarter, Thompson jumped in when the Lakers looked ready to pull away. After the Dubs went scoreless for the first four minutes of the period, Damion Lee knocked away a pass and Thompson drove for a three-point play - part of his game-high 33 points - to pull the Warriors back within three.
Thompson exited briefly before Steve Kerr decided that holding Klay to a minutes limit was the antithesis of playing with joy, and after just a minute and a half of rest, Thompson re-entered and hit two straight 17-footers to tie the game. Then, the Lakers sandwiched three layups around a successful Frank Vogel challenge to take a six-point lead, and when Avery Bradley knocked away a Curry pass, things looked dark for a moment. But only a moment, as Klay caught the deflection and released a three so fast LeBron could only look on in disgust.
On the next possession, Klay missed, but an Otto Porter rebound got him a second chance, and he tied the game with another triple. After two Reaves free throws, Porter got another offensive board and found Klay again, to put the Warriors ahead for good. Despite Kuminga taking his starting spot, Porter was huge on both ends in heavy fourth quarter minutes.
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As well as Austin Reaves played, he had no chance against Curry down the stretch, as Steph hit a dagger layup for the Warriors’ final points. Then he and LeBron traded misses before the wild final seconds.
Once again, the Warriors struggled with a basic end-of-game concept - the foul up three points. It lost them the game against Indiana, and this time, Steph’s grab of LeBron ended up netting him three foul shots. Hard to say he was in the act of shooting, but also, he’s LeBron, the NBA’s leader in combined regular season and playoff points. No, that’s not how records are counted in any sport, especially basketball, but the LeMedia has been pushing this pretty hard today, so we are obligated to mention it. Here’s the final moments:
For the Warriors, this was a very encouraging game for Kuminga, who Steve Kerr called the Warriors “best player” in the first three quarters. He also guarded LeBron and did a passable job, despite five fouls. Not an easy assignment for a 19-year-old, but Kerr made the move with an eye towards the post-season. “The plan was just get him experience now. Let’s put him on LeBron now because he’s going to have to guard LeBron and plenty of other guys in the playoffs who are really, really tough jobs, tough covers,” Kerr said after the game. And of course, he dunked all over the Lakers. On Trevor Ariza:
And on Russell Westbrook:
Jordan Poole’s shot was erratic, but his passing was again on point, and he finished with 11 points and four assists. The vertical-leap-challenged Looney had trouble finishing against AD, but he still snagged 12 rebounds, helping the Warriors to out-rebound their rivals to the south, 50-48. And the much-maligned Nemanja Bjelica missed three of his four free throws, but dished out three assists and ended up a +7 in his twelve minutes. The Warriors also protected the ball well, committing only 9 turnovers for the game and only two in the final quarter.
The LA-Bay rivalry continues Monday, as the Warriors face the Clippers in The House That Money Laundering Built, the Crypto.Com Arena. Remember, fortune favors the three-point shot! Golden State is currently 4-0 against the Los Angeles squads, and one more win would clinch the season series. If so, for the next calendar year, people in Los Angeles have to say “hella” when they mean “very,” and talk about freeways without putting a “the” in front of the number.