After a disappointing loss on Sunday night to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers were back on the road Tuesday. However, they didn’t have to travel very far for this game, as they took a short flight up to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors were a team in transition. First-year head coach Mark Jackson promised a playoff appearance in the pre-season, but after several injuries and a slow start the team shipped off its best player (Monta Ellis) and decided to pack it in for the season. Still, with the unpredictable nature of the Lakers this season, especially on the road, they knew nothing would come easy.
The Lakers started the game like they have started many games this season. They were looking to go inside and take advantage of the size discrepancy in the paint. The biggest asset for them early on was forward Pau Gasol, who took complete advantage of Golden State’s David West. Gasol nearly pulled down double-digit rebounds in the first quarter, and helped the team build an early lead.
One area where the Lakers struggled at first was on the defensive end. The Warriors were able to hang with the Lakers early on thanks to lackadaisical play on defense. This gave Golden State open lanes and uncontested shots.
The Golden State defense was also effective in the first 12 minutes. They were able to hold the Lakers to just 25 points in the first quarter, which allowed them to keep L.A. from pulling ahead early. At the end of one quarter the Lakers had the lead, 25-16.
To begin the second the Lakers came out with more determination and effort than they did in the first. They were able to get their offense moving a little better than in the first quarter, and a lot of that was thanks to Kobe Bryant. The Lakers star, who was benched at the end of Sunday’s game against Memphis, was looking to duplicate his 37-point scoring effort that he produced the last time the Lakers faced the Warriors.
The Lakers managed to build a 16-point lead midway through the second, and seemed well on their way to a win. However, like they have many times before this season, they were unable to hold onto that lead. Their defense began to relax and the Warriors took advantage. The Lakers 16-point lead was quickly cut back to single digits by halftime.
Other than Bryant, who scored 16 points in the first half, the Lakers had 10 points from Andrew Bynum and 10 more from Matt Barnes. No other Laker had more than six in the first 24 minutes of play. At halftime the Lakers led the Warriors 55-48.
After gaining, and subsequently losing, their big lead in the second quarter, the Lakers were looking to re-establish their momentum in the second half. However, things got a bit strange when center Andrew Bynum attempted a three-point basket early in the quarter. Mike Brown was not amused, and instantly pulled Bynum from the game.
Following that the Lakers managed to hang onto their lead for the majority of the quarter. There was another milestone for Bryant in the second, as he tied Michael Jordan with 29,277 points with one franchise. Bryant trailed only Karl Malone (36,374) on the list following this feat.
As for the action on the floor, the Lakers lead remained somewhat steady throughout the third. They did get some strong play from Metta World Peace, who was especially effective in the paint. World Peace was able to disrupt the Warriors on defense while pulling down some offensive rebounds on the other end.
There was some more rotational surprises from Mike Brown, who inserted Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts into the game in the third. A lot of questions have been asked about Brown’s lack of a steady rotation so far this season, and it seemed that those questions would once again be prevalent on Tuesday. Still, at the end of the third quarter the Lakers held onto their lead, 79-72.
The Lakers began the fourth with two straight turnovers, which allowed Golden State to inch ever-closer on the scoreboard. With Kobe Bryant starting the quarter on the bench, the Lakers would need to go elsewhere for their offensive production. One player who did step up for the Lakers offensively was Matt Barnes. The reserve forward hit several big three-point baskets throughout the game, and doubled his point-per-game average on the night.
However, whenever the Lakers looked to make a run and close out the Warriors, Golden State answered. The Warriors climbed all the way back, pulling within one point halfway through the fourth.
The Lakers found themselves without Bynum in the fourth quarter after he was benched earlier in the game. This cost the Lakers dearly, who were desperately missing his size in the paint. Bynum’s impact on both offense and defense has been a huge asset for the Lakers so far this season, and without him the Warriors were able to get to the basket much easier.
However, it wasn’t their inside presence that finally pulled them even with the Lakers, it was their outside shooting. A big three-point basket from Richard Jefferson with less than three minutes to go tied the game. L.A. quickly had a chance to reclaim the advantage, but Ramon Sessions missed two big free throws.
The misses proved costly for Los Angeles, as Golden State finally took their first lead of the game with 1:21 left in the fourth. However, Bryant quickly answered for the Lakers, scoring his first points of the quarter to tie the game, before hitting an almost identical shot seconds later to give the Lakers the lead.
Those last two shots from Bryant ended up being the difference, as the Lakers hit some key free throws in the closing seconds to finally put away the Warriors, 104-101.