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Klay Thompson outduels Talen Horton-Tucker, Warriors win 128-112

Golden State played just well enough to beat a starless Lakers team, featuring a lot of fouls, and aspiring Splash Brother Dwight Howard

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
The superstar matchup everyone anticipated: Klay vs. THT
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

When fans bought tickets to the Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Lakers game before the season, they probably expected an epic scoring duel with playoff seeding on the line. But they probably didn’t anticipate it would be Talen Horton-Tucker putting up 40 points for the Lakers, Klay Thompson leading the way with 33 for the Warriors, and the only seed in question being the No. 3, since the playoff edition of the Lake Show was cancelled Tuesday night. Golden State played down to their level of competition with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook shut down for the season, but rode huge 2nd and 4th quarters to a comfortable 128-112 win.

Thompson finished with six three-pointers, all in the first half, and four in a big second quarter where he put up 15 points as the Dubs went for 38 as a team. It’s the first time Klay had back-to-back 30-point games since 2019, although that’s the case for almost all of Klay’s accomplishments this season. Steph Curry was impressed!

Curry also showed off excellent lateral movement and mobility on a celebration later in the corner, after Wiggins fought past Talen Horton-Tucker for a dunk. He should be cleared for full-contact celebrations by Monday at the latest.

The Warriors didn’t go ahead for good until late in the third quarter, a testament to the Lakers’ scrappy play and the Warriors’ sloppiness - they committed 26 fouls and handed the Lakers a whopping 38 free throws. Sending Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson to the line a combined 13 times is pretty wild. Draymond Green had five of them to go along with his ten points and seven assists, effectively giving himself a minutes limit with the foul trouble.

Andrew Wiggins had an efficient 17 points on 12 shots, and is averaging 19.5 points for his last four games, while shooting above 50% from the field and from three-point range. He may have broken out of his post-All-Star slump, but it also helps to have Draymond Green back finding him for assists (two) as well as Jordan Poole, who assisted on three of his baskets. He also cracked himself up with the sheer audacity of his flagrant foul on Reaves in the first quarter.

Poole’s streak of 20-point games stopped as he had only 19 points, but that’s because he was a dedicated playmaker all night. His 11 assists were a career high, and he took only 15 shots, preferring to get his teammates involved. These were high-quality assists, too! Six of Poole’s dimes went for dunks or layups, and four of them went for three-pointers. Of course, he also took time to remind Dwight Howard that he’s the most deceptive ball handler in the NBA, or at least the most deceptive one who believes the earth is round.

Speaking of Howard, he also showed off a variety of moves, free from the pressure of making the playoffs, or winning games, or not audibly farting on the bench. It was vintage Dwight late in the second quarter, when he showed off his old athleticism by grabbing a loose ball and throwing down a huge jam to give the Lakers the lead. And then showed off his old foolishness by drawing a technical for unnecessarily hanging on the rim, to give the lead right back.

Howard also showed off his range for any team looking for a stretch five next season, hitting a three-pointer that gave LeBron and AD their first moments of joy since the premiere of Space Jam: A New Legacy. He’s now 8-13 on the season, and nearly as accurate from behind the arc as from the free throw line.

Malik Monk had 24 points and two blocks, remaining one of the few bright spots for the reeling Lakers squad this year. The former lottery pick has had a renaissance in Southern California after signing on a minimum deal. Unfortunately, Monk’s 13.4 points per game and 39% shooting from deep probably also mean that he’s out of the Lakers’ price range for next season. Good luck on the Kings, Malik!

Eventually, the Dubs seized command with a bench-and-Klay lineup spanning the third and fourth quarters. The combination of Thompson, Otto Porter Jr. (+35 in 30 minutes), Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica, and Gary Payton II overwhelmed the Lakers’ bench, including former Warriors guard/cheerleader Kent Bazemore, who famously turned down more money from the Warriors for a better chance at the playoffs in LA. Whoops! A Wayne Ellington three was the Lakers’ only bucket for the final five-and-a-half minutes of the third, and only three points in the first 3:12 of the fourth, and the Warriors took a 99-87 lead.

The Lakers never got closer than seven points after that, and Draymond Green closed things out as a passer. On three consecutive possessions, he found Wiggins for three, Porter for a dunk, and Poole for three. Finally, after a series of missed threes, Draymond took matters into his own hands and made a dagger layup with 3:19 to go, and then finished his night by finding Klay for a dunk. That’s four assists and a layup in three-and-a-half minutes, a closing effort worthy of Rod “Shooter” Beck.

After that, the only drama was whether THT could hit 40 points, and he did it, with an impressive garbage time performance of seven points in two minutes after the Warriors pulled their starters. And I don’t write this to criticize; most of this season has been about LeBron James trying to rack up points in big losses, so Horton-Tucker is simply learning from his veterans.

Iguodala matched Draymond with seven assists, a very encouraging sign for the playoffs, including the pass of the night, when he found GPII for a jam.

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Warriors’ shooting has picked way up with two of the best-passing forwards in NBA history returning to the lineup, which also essentially solves the Warriors season-long need for a backup ball handler.

The game wasn’t totally meaningless on the Lakers side, as the team’s eighth straight loss brought them in striking distance of the Sacramento Kings for seventh-worst record in the league. That would make it nearly impossible for the pick to convey to the Memphis Grizzlies, who received the pick from New Orleans (after they got it in the Anthony Davis trade) protected 1-10, and any win that helps deny a rival a lottery pick is a good win indeed. There’s also a better than 25% chance that the pick ends up in the top four, which doesn’t really affect the Lakers on the court, but would really sting, emotionally.

Two more games left this weekend, against San Antonio and New Orleans, which still might determine which of these teams get to host the 9-10 play-in game next week. The New Orleans-Memphis game will be over before Warriors-Spurs, so they’ll know before tip-off if San Antonio still has a chance at home-court for one game. If the Warriors win out they’ll hold on to the third seed, although there’s an argument they might prefer to finish fourth and draw the Utah Jazz, rather than reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Still, despite the lackadaisacal nature of their play, the Warriors seem to be doing the most important thing possible before the playoffs: Staying healthy.