The Los Angeles Lakers pull in to Golden State on the heels of a hard-fought win against the New Orleans Pelicans looking to improve upon their 9-31 record. They will certainly have their work cut out for them, as Stephen Curry and the reigning NBA champions lost a tough game to Denver last night and will be looking to get back to their winning ways.
Kobe Bryant is expected to play for Los Angeles, although he has been bothered by a sore Achilles (the other one). It isn’t clear how many minutes he will play, but with the game drawing national TV coverage and it being his final appearance in the Bay, it’s not surprising that he opted to give it a go.
Can the Lakers give the champs a run for their money?
The Lakers started out with their now-familiar lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Kobe Bryant, Larry Nance Jr., and Roy Hibbert. LA came out aggressive, but Bryant was grimacing and looked to be moving a bit slow due to his sore Achilles. By halfway through the quarter he appeared to loosen up, and hit a three followed by a nice up-and-under finish with his left hand to tie the score at 10. D’Angelo Russell came in and knocked down a three, but also had a bad turnover when he passed the ball straight out of bounds after Lou Williams vacated his spot on the wing. Seldom-used Tarik Black was inserted to guard Draymond Green, but gave up an offensive rebound and putback to Draymond almost as soon as he stepped on the floor. After that Black settled down and made some nice plays around the basket. To finish the quarter the Lakers used an extremely young lineup that included Russell, Anthony Brown, Julius Randle, Black, and veteran Williams. The kids held their own and the purple and gold finished down just one, 24-23.
The second quarter saw the Lakers energized on the boards by the combination of Julius Randle and Tarik Black, who had racked up 5 rebounds a piece. The young Lakers continued to take it to the defending champs, seizing the lead on a D’Angelo Russell three pointer. For a brief moment the Lakers went even younger, with Jordan Clarkson replacing Williams, which gave us a glimpse of the future. D’Angelo Russell looked calm and in control, finding Black for a layup on one play and hitting Nance with a pocket pass for another. When the vets returned the Lakers struggled to close out on the three point line, and lost track of Stephen Curry on one play, which is instant death from deep. The Lakers scrapped and clawed to stay in the game and went into halftime trailing by a score of 52-49 in spite of 5 threes from Curry.
The Lakers started the third with a turnover, but Lou Williams settled things down by getting fouled on the three pointer, which is his M.O. Larry Nance, Lou Williams, and Jordan Clarkson made scrappy plays to save possessions and get crucial points at the foul line, which helped to counter the Warriors steadily-improving shooting. It seemed as though every time Golden State made a big play the Lakers responded with one of their own. Still, Curry was unstoppable, and he hit his eighth three with just over four minutes to play in the quarter. The Lakers young lineup returned, but this time it was the Warriors making a push while LA went cold. The Lakers were outscored 13-2 over the final 3.5 minutes of the quarter, and trailed 86-72 to end the third. The Warriors were so hot that Curry even dunked.
The fourth quarter started with the Lakers getting a quick stop and a score, which cut the Golden State lead to 12. The Warriors responded by going on a 6-0 run, and looked to be in complete control of the game. The young Lakers crew struggled to find a rhythm while the Warriors did their best Showtime impression in Nor Cal, running the floor and dishing to open shooters. Larry Nance Jr. returned and picked up a steal (his 6th of the game) that resulted in a Randle dunk in transition. The crowd chanted Kobe’s name and Byron Scott gave them what they wanted, subbing Bryant in for Anthony Brown to a thunderous ovation. Ryan Kelly, who had made his debut a few minutes earlier, didn’t receive the same crowd reaction but did have a nice and-1 in the paint. Coach Byron Scott let Kobe run for a couple of minutes before taking him back out of the game, which allowed the Mamba to get one final standing ovation. Garbage time was in full effect after that, and the Warriors coasted to a 116-96 victory.