The Golden State Warriors were unable to end their recent skid in a 124-116 victory over the even more out of sorts Los Angeles Lakers. While LeBron James put on an incredible performance to carry the Lakers to victory, Los Angeles has also looked like a complete mess over the past few weeks. As Golden State’s losing streak now reaches four games, the alarm bells are only ringing louder.
Things got off to a concerning start for the Warriors. In the first quarter, their starting unit was once again dominated on the inside while unable to create easy shots on offense. Klay Thompson struggled mightily, missing three heavily contested shots alongside some wild passing, which led to one turnover. Neither team was playing particularly well, but the Lakers quickly amassed a 14-point lead.
The Lakers led 32-25 at the end of the first quarter after Jordan Poole sparked a short offensive run for the Warriors. Arguably more noteworthy than the score, though, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr returned to Stephen Curry’s old rotation. Steph played the entire first quarter before resting for the first half of the second. In his absence, Poole had even more freedom to run the offense and continued his recent hot streak.
Golden State’s young trio of Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody each made major contributions in the second quarter that changed the game. Poole, Kuminga, and Moody combined for 33 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 13-16 shooting from the field in the first half. In Curry’s absence, the Warriors went on a 22-10 run and retook the lead.
The Dubs built a 14-point lead of their own after Curry returned, but LeBron James was doing his best to keep the Lakers in the game. He scored 26 points in the first half and closed the second quarter strong, which ultimately cut the Warriors' halftime lead to 67-62.
What Golden State’s early offensive dominance covered up was continued struggles defensively. Kerr has been extremely critical of the Warriors' defense in Draymond Green’s absence, and Saturday’s performance continued leaving more to be desired. While James, Russell Westbrook, and even Carmelo Anthony made plenty of highly-contested shots, the Lakers seemed able to drive inside whenever they wanted.
Curry and Klay each made some baskets early in the third quarter and helped the Warriors lead hover around 10, but they were unable to build much more than that. A key problem was free-throw shooting. The Warriors finished 8-for-18 on free throws, with players like Toscano-Anderson, Kuminga, and Wiggins all leaving trips to the line empty-handed.
Kerr opted to try a new rotation for Curry in the second half. He rested him for the final few minutes of the third quarter when the Lakers cut the lead back down to five and continued leaving him on the bench at the start of the fourth. While the decision made Kerr comfortable playing Curry the final 9 minutes of regulation, it also allowed Los Angeles to cut the lead to three.
As soon as Curry re-entered, James knocked down back-to-back threes and the Lakers were leading for the first time since the second quarter.
The next six minutes were an electrifying back-and-fourth of high-level offense aided by some less than perfect defense. However, as baskets became harder to come by in the final two minutes, the Lakers pulled ahead. A costly turnover by Curry alongside missed threes from Poole and Thompson opened the door for the Lakers to build a two-possession lead that the Warriors were unable to overcome.
Curry quietly had one of his better shooting games in recent memory, but his 30 points on 13-for-22 shooting from the field (4-for-9 from three) came with just 1 assist and 0 free throws. Poole finished with 23 points and 5 assists while Kuminga added 18 points and 5 rebounds. However, Thompson’s final line (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, and 3 fouls, on 3-for-13 shooting) stood out as the Warriors' obvious Achilles heel.
James was transcendent for the Lakers. He recorded 56 points and 10 rebounds, making 19 of his 31 field-goal attempts, including 6 of his 11 shots from three. However, the Lakers were only within striking distance because of Golden State’s failure to put the game away.
Things are not getting easier for the Warriors anytime soon. As they now will travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets on Monday, March 7th at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
Did you miss our postgame show over on Twitch? You can rewatch the whole thing right here: