The Los Angeles Lakers came into this game after a disappointing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers which featured a dismal defensive performance. The team once again could not find a way to finish off a fourth quarter and they fell to the number one team in the Western Conference.
Not only are the Lakers fighting for conference seeding, they are in a heated battle for their division and they could not afford a loss to the Golden State Warriors. For the first time in several years, the Lakers are trying to catch the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division standings.
Both teams started the game off slow and they were having trouble finding ways to put the ball in the basket. The Lakers began the game shooting 2-6, while the Warriors came out of the gates at 3-9.
Mid-way into the opening quarter, only Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Matt Barnes had scored for the Lakers and the majority of their buckets came from inside the paint. At the first time-out of the game (5:48), the Lakers found themselves leading 10-6.
The Lakers could not extend their lead much farther as the Warriors constantly answered back with their own buckets. The first quarter was one of runs and because of that, the two teams remained fairly close throughout.
At the end of the opening period, the Lakers were trailing 20-22. Their leading scorer was Kobe Bryant with eight points, followed by Barnes and Gasol four with points each. As a team the Lakers shot 38% from the field, while the Warriors shot 46%
The Warriors began the second period hot and they extended their two point lead to six, 27-21, with 10:17 left in the quarter. With Kobe Bryant on the bench for the Lakers, the young Warriors took full advantage. They made an effort to attack the basket as quickly as possible and were running up-and-down the sidelines.
The Lakers were constantly committing turnovers and on top of that, Bynum was having trouble regaining his offensive groove. He was unable to connect on close looks and was not finding the touch at the free-throw line.
Los Angeles had no answer for Nate Robinson and he was getting to the hoop at will. Robinson was either finishing easy layups or going to the line and knocking down free-throws. The Lakers could not nail down their three-pointers and were struggling on the offensive end without Kobe.
Still, despite the horrendous play from the Lakers, they were only trailing by four points; with 5:22 left in the half, the Warriors were ahead 31-27.
However, even when Bryant subbed back into the game, the Lakers had trouble scoring the ball. They were ice-cold from behind the arc as they shot 1-8 from the area in the first half.
The Lakers headed to the locker-room for halftime trailing 35-39. The team shot 15-41 from the field (37%) and committed 12 turnovers in the first 24 minutes.
The Lakers opened up the third quarter much improved and Bryant and Gasol were more assertive on the offensive end. Los Angeles was also more energetic on defense and the team was getting its hands on loose balls. Still, the Lakers could not make shots when they were most needed and the Warriors had answers for every Los Angeles bucket. With 8:05 left in the third quarter, the Lakers were still trailing 41-46.
Bryant and Gasol led the charge mid-way into the third, and they were finally hitting their shots. Gasol’s mid-range game was on point and Kobe was a great scorer and facilitator. After a dismal performance in the first half, the Lakers worked themselves back and regained the lead, 49-48, at the 6:37 mark of the quarter.
As the quarter winded down, Kobe Bryant put the scoring load on his shoulders. He was making tough shots and tried to do whatever it took to extend the team’s lead. Bryant was running the floor nicely and was able to bring some energy and intensity onto the court for the Lakers.
The Lakers ended the third quarter on an 8-0 run and had a 67-58 lead.
Unlike most of the Lakers’ games this season, Kobe Bryant was on the floor to begin the fourth quarter. Kobe had dominated the ball to end the third, and he was the only player who had a hot hand for the team. It was clear that Bryant wanted to put away the Warriors as soon as possible.
However, Kobe did in fact receive help from his teammates in the final quarter. Matt Barnes stepped up big time in the period and continue to score points when needed. Barnes was efficient from the field and his and-one at the 7:51 mark gave the Lakers a 78-67 lead.
The Warriors made a diminutive run late in the fourth quarter, but at that point it was too little too late. The Lakers had already asserted their dominance and put away the Warriors a while ago.
As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers were ahead 97-90. They have now improved to a record of 5-4 and have tied the Clippers for the number one seed in the Pacific Division.
The team’s leading scorer was Kobe Bryant with 39 points, followed by Gasol with 17 points.
The Lakers’ next game will be on Sunday when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.