For a little over a quarter, the Golden State Warriors looked like they had gained control of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers. They withstood an unsustainable flurry by D’Angelo Russell, who couldn’t miss in the opening minutes. They attacked early. They moved the ball all around sensationally, with outstanding passes and cuts.
They erased a seven-point deficit that Russell had almost single-handedly built, and replaced it with a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
It was more of the same to start the second quarter. They were getting everything they wanted against the Lakers defense. They were making Anthony Davis look tired after all the minutes he played in the first two games. They completely shut down LeBron James. They built up a 40-29 lead that prompted me to tweet stupid things about how the momentum of the series had fully shifted.
And then it shifted 180 degrees. Even though the offense was getting whatever it wanted, it seemed more interested in turning the ball over. The defense fell apart. A rather specious call in which Moses Moody was called for both a flagrant foul and a take foul on the same play seemed to flip the switch, as theLakers rattled off a 13-0 run to erase the Warriors double-digit lead.
Suddenly the Dubs were playing like their backs were against the wall, the Lakers were playing like they smelled blood, and the refs were .... well, the refs were reffing, let’s just say that much.
The Lakers ended the second quarter on a monumental 30-8 run. An 11-point Warriors lead had turned into an 11-point deficit at the half.
Any hope for a run to get back into it in the second half was quickly erased. Draymond Green picked up his fourth foul in the opening minutes, and his fifth foul before the halfway mark of the third frame, all while flirting with losing his composure entirely. The offense went colder than cold, missing layup after layup, half out of ineptitude, and half out of trepidation. The threes went cold in the process.
The Lakers lead threatened to get out of hand, but the Warriors briefly dug deep, with gritty play from Steph Curry, Kevon Looney, and Andrew Wiggins, who had a poster dunk that flirted with changing the momentum.
It did not. James took over, turning back the clock with a heroic performance befitting a man half his age. The rest of the Lakers followed his lead, and I’m sure the Warriors will tell you that the refs did, too.
By the time the fourth quarter started, you were wondering if Steve Kerr would wave the white towel and get his stars some rest.
He didn’t, but it only took a few minutes for the deficit to move in the wrong direction, and the Dubs to make it clear that they didn’t have a rally in them. Two days after playing their bench about nine minutes of garbage time for the right reasons, the Warriors played them about nine minutes of garbage time for the wrong reasons.
And when the buzzer rang, they lost 127-97, and fell behind 2-1 in the series.
Curry led the way with 23 points, but shot just 9-for-21. Draymond Green ended with more fouls than points, rebounds, or assists. Klay Thompson had an inefficient 15 points and committed 6 turnovers. Wiggins and Kevon Looney played pretty well, but that’s about all you can say.
As a team, the Dubs only committed one more foul than the Lakers, but they allowed LA to shoot 37 free throws, while they attempted just 17. They had 19 turnovers to LA’s 12. They completely self-destructed, with scared offense, stupid turnovers, and multiple technical fouls.
Game 4 is Monday night in Los Angeles, at 7:00 p.m. PT. While I’m sure the Dubs would love to overcome a 3-1 deficit against LeBron, I think we can all agree they’d be smart to not put themselves in a position to do so.