Angels – One losing match deserves another. A star player spawned, then dropped the hammer 48 hours later. The Warriors had eye-testing momentum one day in the series, and the Lakers claimed it the next.
So this is where the Warriors-Lakers stand right now, completely stumping anyone trying to get a grip on the Western Conference semifinals, and there’s only one thing for sure: LA is 2-1 after winning Game 3 on Saturday.
Everything else? Who knows.
One predictable outcome was that Anthony Davis went from cold to hot from one game to the next, like clockwork. That was his turn, or so this postseason, and he didn’t disappoint once again. Good thing for the Lakers who rode their two stars to victory at home.
Lucky for us, we only have to wait two days to mess around again with Game 4 on Monday.
Lakers coach Darwin Hamm said: „The score doesn’t represent the type of team they are, and when they beat us big it doesn’t represent the type of team we are. It’s going to be a battle until the end.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 127-97 victory on a night that left fans running out of Crypto.com Arena in the best-of-seven series.
1. Davis Draymond loses
Anthony Davis probably read all those glowing reviews about Draymond Green and how the Warriors’ defensive ace put AD on the ice in Game 2. Players aren’t motivated by those things anymore, are they?
Correct: Davis opened the handcuffs. Once again unleashed, he made an impact in the paint; The defense’s starting line, Jamichal, outplayed Green, and then Draymond — the second and most important layer — ran into foul trouble. Davis absorbed contact and made 12 free throws, missing once. Also, Draymond took exception to the whistles despite losing every review. He walked up to each ref and spoke his mind. She approached the court with comedian Kevin Hart to plead her case.
By then the damage was done. Davis knocked down enough mid-range shots and buckets off pick-and-rolls to finish with 25 points. The Lakers used a big third quarter to take an 18-point lead into the fourth. With a loss in the works, Draymond — along with other very important Warriors — was benched in the fourth anyway.
2. Never take LeBron for granted
Let’s be clear — it was a more monumental day for LeBron than for his son Brony, who finally announced his college choice: The teenager will wrestle at USC next year. Meanwhile, Father struggled with the most brilliant Game 3 performance in 20 years. It was smart because LeBron picked his spots, and when the game was picked up, he took it.
For example: LeBron didn’t take a shot until the 8-minute mark of the second quarter, which certainly sent the arena into a frenzy. For most players this would be a threat. But LeBron was busy building teammates. He said: “I’m never going to force shots. I’m going to let the game come to me.
Then the scoring erupted — a combined 21 points in the third and fourth quarters, on a collection of hoop moves, pull-up jumpers and post-ups. How he operated for the Warriors was cerebral, and it worries Golden State: Will the pace of the schedule — one game every night — fade a 38-year-old, or not? A problem?
LeBron helped that the last two games were blowouts; He wasn’t even needed in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided. So, the basketball gods are managing him in the next game; LeBron played a breezy 32 minutes on Saturday. Since their game plan, starting with Andrew Wiggins against LeBron, hasn’t yet limited him, the Warriors better believe he’ll be pushed beyond the minutes threshold at some point. They need some help.
3. So, when does an eruption of the stapes occur?
Good news for the Warriors: They didn’t waste the performance of a ballistic Stephen Curry. Bad news for the Warriors: He hasn’t delivered one yet. It will come soon, won’t it? That’s what the Warriors world expects. Curry usually drops an epic scoring game at some point in a playoff series because they’re best of seven. He did it several times in the first round against the Kings, including a 50-piece in the closeout.
But Curry’s 23 points on Saturday were more modest. He’s still waiting for a top-30 finish against the Lakers. A reason for the delay? Double explosions. Curry has no reason to play a complete game. He doesn’t see much charm, and his performance has declined (below his high standards).
It probably wore on Curry in Game 3; He uncharacteristically and briefly lost his cool when he delivered a perfect bounce pass to Klay Thompson. The hanging blower was almost thrown to the ground. Curry shot just 4-of-10 in 3 games Saturday and the Warriors followed their leader — they made just 13 from deep and shot 29.5%. Usually that shot means doom for the team that (mostly) lives and (sometimes) dies. When the Lakers broke the game in the third quarter, their inability to make 3s obviously hurt their chances of rallying.
4. Is it scandalous to suggest Reaves is the Lakers’ version of Jordan Poole?
Reaves had a breakout season, climbed the rotation ladder, earned a starting spot and the Lakers started calling plays for him. Jordan did the same last season and had an improved role for a championship team. But both are fighting hard in this series.
For Reeves, however, the fallout was sudden and severe. He tore through the Grizzlies in the first round, just as he did from January to April in the regular season. Here against the Warriors, he is exposed. His defense against Thomson often looks poor and he can’t easily release his own shot. His performance in three games: 9-for-28, averaging nine points (44% vs. 16.5 vs. Memphis).
The Lakers didn’t suffer much from this; After all, they have a 2-1 series lead. But the matchups weren’t in Reaves’ favor against the Warriors, and in one of these games, he might need more.
5. Free throws are not free for the Warriors
What a surprise: One of the lowest-scoring teams from the free-throw line has fallen behind big in that category against the highest-scoring team from the stripe. The Lakers lead the series in free throw attempts 83-39.
That same Saturday, the Lakers blew out the Warriors 37-17 — and nine of those Warriors productions came from subs during fourth-quarter mop-up duty. The Warriors can win this series if that margin is tilted, but they’ll need to shoot better from 3-point range to overcome the deficit. When they struggle deep, as they did in Game 3, the free throw imbalance comes into question again.
In the Game 1 loss, Golden State was outscored 25-5, which sounds like a misprint (it wasn’t). The explanation is simple: They lack players who live in the paint, and their best bigs (Draymond and Kevon Looney) are non-shooters. The Lakers give a lot of space to both and neither player takes full advantage, mainly because they’re uncomfortable doing so. Draymond, Looney and JaMychael Green combined for three shots outside 15 feet Saturday — and two free throw attempts because they didn’t make contact.
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Shawn Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him Here, his archive can be found here And follow him Twitter.
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