The Golden State Warriors entered their match up against the Lakers Monday night with the better season record, sitting at 40-31 having won 23 of 33 games at home. That record was all thanks to Stephen Curry, however, who was keen to play despite suffering a mild ankle injury Saturday versus Washington. The issues L.A. had not been able to solve coming into the game versus Golden State, including turnovers and defensive errors, had the ability to play directly into Curry’s favor. In order to shut down the surging Warriors, the Lakers had to solve many personal issues on the floor before worrying directly about whatever Curry was concocting.
In all six games where Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have started together this season, the Lakers have lost every single one. There wouldn’t be a better opportunity to get a win this season than against Golden State, however, as L.A. has won all six of the last meetings between the two sides, and a whopping 33 of the last 36.
The Warriors started off the game shooting a meek 1-7 from the field, which enabled the Lakers to grab a slight lead within the first four minutes of play. Curry all of a sudden twisted the game completely around, pushing the Golden State to an 8-0 run while forcing a few turnovers and switching the momentum in his side’s favor.
Los Angeles couldn’t get any of the solid looks they constructed to fall, while on the opposite end of the floor, Curry created multiple masterpieces which allowed many of his teammates on the court grab baskets, and eventually lead to an early 11-point lead. Some scrappy play underneath both baskets led to many occasions where Dwight Howard came away without the ball, as his presence in the paint wasn’t exactly dominant.
Bryant stepped up, as expected, putting away four consecutive baskets for L.A., including an impressive spin move with three minutes remaining over both Curry and Jarrett Jack to cut the lead to seven. The Warriors continuously found success from the perimeter, as the young squad didn’t make many attempts to drive into the paint as all of their work was finished as soon as they grabbed either the three-pointer or the pull up jumper.
The only positive thing the Lakers took from this quarter, despite some solid shooting from Kobe, was the fact Curry committed two personal fouls. Him only having to sit the final 20 seconds of the quarter, however, didn’t leave much opportunity for L.A. to do anything and they ended the quarter down a ton, 16-28.
After back to back baskets from the Warriors, Steve Nash scored the first Laker field goal from someone other than Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol continued to demonstrate how rusty even an NBA player can be after six weeks without suiting up. Open looks from the top of the key, a Gasol special, found ways to clank around the rim and eventually fall out.
The Lakers finally realized if they hold possession and send the ball to Dwight, the Warriors, and especially center Andrew Bogut, will commit fouls. With over six minutes remaining, Golden State were within foul trouble, sending L.A. to the line. This fact poured more confidence into Howard,who began moving toward the basket searching for contact instead of shying away from shooting opportunities and giving up turnovers.
L.A. eventually started playing defense, as well, as in one play both Earl Clark and Howard swatted away two consecutive shots from first Harrison Barnes and then David Lee. The opportunities that Kobe created for himself and had fall in the first quarter suddenly weren’t so easy for Bryant, especially when he missed two simple layups that were too easy to miss. Even as Los Angeles started increasing their defense, including World Peace forcing turnovers and keeping the ball in L.A.’s hands, their shot attempts could never fall on the opposite side of the floor.
In the final three minutes, Kobe Bryant hit the Lakers’ first three-pointer of the game, and a difficult jumper from World peace on the next trip merely savaged the Warriors taking a 20 point lead. That effort was quickly diminished, however, as yet another bucket from Curry had the Warriors up 21 with less than a minute left. The hunger the Warriors had for the basketball was showcased not once, but twice with just over one second remaining, as Lee and Bogut both tipped in stray shots to finish off the half with an extra four points. The Lakers were completely outplayed in the first half, and the score proved it, as L.A. headed into the locker room down big, 40-63.
The Lakers had the first two baskets of the half within a minute of play, and a three from Steve Nash pushed his personal total to 15 while getting the ball moving for Los Angeles. Although the Warriors had answers of their own, another three by Kobe put the lead to only 19, and suddenly the Lakers looked as if they were prepared to play basketball.
Bryant began taking the initiative and drilling to paint to create spectacular dunks, but a knee injury to Metta World Peace forced the bench to make a better impact than they did in the first half. Jodie Meeks stepped onto the floor ready to play, distributing the ball for a few assists, fighting for shot attempts in the lane, and even putting up a few layups. These contributions put L.A. on an 11-2 run with the halfway mark in the quarter passing by.
Jarrett Jack led the way for the Warriors throughout a majority of the quarter, as the guard scored eight of his 14 points in the first nine minutes of the third quarter alone. The fact that all of the work ethic from L.A. was stemming only from Bryant and Nash enabled Jack and the rest of his side to keep a healthy lead throughout the quarter. Whenever the Lakers created an inkling of a run, the Warriors were there to banish it from the Oracle Arena, with just a slight defensive pressure forcing an ugly Los Angeles shot.
The Lakers were given a blessing in the final minute of play, as they were awarded nine free throws, sending Bryant and Howard to the line while Gasol made two trips. Unfortunately for L.A., the team only managed to put a shocking two of nine free throws away, and the Warriors were still up heavily entering the final quarter of play, 94-76.
L.A. missed all four of their first attempts from the field to start off the fourth, which is definitely not the way to cut a deficit. With Jarrett Jack and David Lee scorching offensively on the opposite end of the court, the game seemed over early. The Warriors gave away turnover number 10 about three minutes into play, which, surprisingly considering the score, was a couple more than the Lakers’ eight. Turnovers were clearly not an issue for the home side, however, as Golden State had the ability to covert their possessions into baskets on just about every trip down the floor.
A big three-pointer from the corner by Meeks cut the lead down to only 16, as unimpressive shooting from both rosters the first half of the quarter only allowed the Lakers to slowly chip into Golden State’s lead more and more. Another basket by Bryant made it seem as if L.A. were constructing a small run to fight for the win, but the reminder of how unimpressive a majority of the roster performed in the game made a victory only a dream.
Steve Blake cut the lead to single digits with a three-pointer after a large amount of ball movement, where every member on the floor got a touch on the ball before the 6’3″ point guard drained the open look. Another basket from Bryant cut the lead even farther with a minute and a half remaining. Although the Warriors started missing their shots and the Lakers had more and more attempts, the work done throughout most of the game had already decided the outcome.
With just under four minutes remaining, Kobe and Nash had put away 50 of the Lakers points in comparison to the rest of the team only scoring 43. The lack of effort offensively from a majority of the team along with L.A.’s inability to handle Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack was the perfect recipe for disaster.
The lack of production ended up proving too much at the end, as Golden State defeated the Lakers 103-109.