The Los Angeles Lakers led the Golden State Warriors 84-74 with just under three minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Up until that point, the plucky and shorthanded Dubs had given a quality fight, but the Lakers were surging dangerously close to blowing the game open.
But the Warriors weathered the storm and unleashed a nasty 47-30 run over the final 14:48 minutes of gametime, keyed by a gritty defensive effort and a fluid offensive attack that stunned the Lakers in front of their fans on opening night. Final score: Warriors 121, Lakers 114.
And this was on a night where Stephen Curry continued his Staples Center shooting woes with a 5-of-21 performance (he still had a 21-10-10 triple-double though). If these Dubs can knock off a quality team on the road with Curry scuffling and Klay Thompson in street clothes? That’s a really good sign of the quality depth and confidence of this squad.
DAMN, IT FEELS GOOD TO BEAT THE LAKERS.
Space: the final frontier
That clip above was the culmination of a night where the Warriors prodded and pulled on the fabric of L.A.’s defense until it ripped to shreds in the end. That 47-30 run to end the game featured the Warriors shooting 15-of-26 from the field, 6-of-11 beyond the arc, and 11-for-11 from the free throw line. That is a ridiculous spurt of efficiency to finish the game off, and it doesn’t happen without the galactic amount of space the Dubs are playing with this season.
Golden State could drill during the frenzy of a fast break transition like Jordan Poole (20 points, 4-of-11 shooting from downtown) did here:
They could run the same play they’ve been running for years to get Curry (greatest shooter ever) wide open for a triple:
Of course there’s the high pick-and roll he likes too:
They can even use tic-tac-toe passing from the paint to find a guy like Andrew Wiggins (12 points with 2-of-5 shooting from deep) wide open in the corner:
The threat of floor spacing opened up driving lanes that the Dubs repeatedly took advantage of, evidenced by rookie Moses Moody getting his first NBA bucket by blowing by a recovering Anthony Davis on the perimeter.
Each one of those clips felt like a natural, comfortable shot by players who expected to get the balls in those situations. Don’t you just love the Warriors offense, even before Klay and James Wiseman get to add their unique skillsets to the mix? Bahahaha.
The Dubs shot 14-of-39 from beyond the arc (36%) and added 25-of-30 free throw shooting (83%) on the night, showing an excellent balance between long range bombing and paint penetration.
Before the game I was hella worried about the Lakers beating the smaller Dubs on the inside, and immediately after the tip I felt like my fears were justified. The first play of the game was a LeBron James to DeAndre Jordan alley oop off of a jumpball!
But by the end of the game, it was clear the Warriors have enough hustle and intelligence to compete with the Lakers’ giants. Check out these rebounding numbers:
Nemanja Bjelica - 11
Curry - 10
Draymond Green - 8
Andrew Wiggins - 7
Only one of those players is taller than 6-foot-8, but gang rebounding can conquer size. Would you believe the smallball Warriors outrebounded the Lakers 50 to 45, and outscored them 46 to 34 on points in the paint?? That’s probably gonna trip the Lakers out in their film session on this game.
The bench brings some Strength In Numbers
Bjelica added 15 points to his 11 rebounds, part of a bench mob effort that buoyed Golden State’s rally. “Belly” surprised me with his high motor and freewheeling confidence in his 25 minutes of game time. He helped swing the balance of the game and was a part of that closing unit that buried L.A. for good. For those bemoaning the Warriors not adding another big in free agency, I’d better hear some praise for GSW’s front office for picking a guy who WAS KILLING THE LAKERS FRONTLINE.
Of the six players who scored in double figures for GSW last night, three of them were reserves. Damion Lee tallied 15 points while Andre Iguodala chipped in a crucial 12 points. These three are masters at setting up their teammates for success and bailing out the squad offensively with heady passing and opportunistic scoring.
LeBron and AD are monsters, but what about the rest of the Lakers?
I have seen the Warriors overcome prolific nights from opposing superstars during the duration of the dynasty, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about last night’s outcome. But DAMN King James and Anthony Davis put on a show!
LeBron finished the night with 34 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists on 56% shooting from the field. He nailed 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, shooting it with a confidence that shows he’s put the work in the gym. He’s as comfortable and dangerous shooting the ball as I’ve ever seen him in his career, and that’s saying something for a guy that once shot 40% from deep when he was rampaging with the Miami Heat.
And AD looked like a man among boys at points last night, tallying up 33 points and 11 rebounds on 57% shooting. He was punishing our guy Juan Toscano-Anderson, which, shouldn’t be a shocker considering AD is a generationally talented big man while JTA is a wing pitching in on guarding bigs.
But all those gaudy numbers weren’t enough in the end. Russell Westbrook scuffled to a 4-of-13 night with 4 turnovers, with a -23 plus/minus. His impact on the court was negligible. The Warriors seemed to enjoy defending his careening drives into the lane that went nowhere or his errant bombs from deep.
I believe this team will figure some things out and adjust, but so will the Warriors. In fact, the Warriors will be adding a generational talent of their own when Klay gets back. If you count exhibition games, this is the third straight time the Warriors have smirked right through L.A.’s glitz and glamour. The Dubs are clearly confident against their Pacific Division rival, but it’s a long season.
We’ll seem ‘em again down the road, and I can’t wait.