Boxscore: Lakers 97, Warriors 90
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 105.4, Warriors 97.8
True Shooting%: Lakers 58.2%, Warriors 55.4%
Kobe. Bean. Bryant.
For all the hand-wringing about Kobe’s shot selection of late (which, to be fair, is both a complicated subject and not off base) it sure is a glorious sight when he has his offensive game going. And, tonight was one of those nights. Kobe had his entire arsenal going, working inside and out in a classic performance that had the Staples Center crowd reviving the MVP chants that were an every game occurrence in season’s past. Kobe worked out of the triple threat, working his defender to the point that he could set up his turnaround jumper. He worked off the ball and got several lay ins off back cuts and hard dives to the hoop. And he found the range on his deep jumper, sinking several long twos to carry the Lakers’ offense for long stretches in the 2nd half. Most importantly though, was that he was able to draw fouls and earn trips to the FT line. He ended up taking 14 freebies (which did include a couple on technical fouls) which allowed him to boost his point total and keep his efficiency up, finishing with 39 points on 28 shots.
Plus, and this can’t be downplayed, he also did an excellent job setting up his teammates tallying 7 assists and several other plays where he made tremendous reads against a defense that started to trap and double team him as the night wore on. On more than one occasion he accepted the double team and hit teammates in the perfect position where they could either take an easy shot for themselves or move the ball on against a rotating defense. His night wasn’t perfect in this regard (he did total 4 turnovers as well) but he did enough to keep the defense off balance and his teammates involved. And on a night where the Lakers’ offense wasn’t close to clicking, his work on that side of the floor was the difference in the game.
Not much to really complain about in this game from a Laker standpoint, so I turn to the Warriors and the shooting night of Monta Ellis. With Steph Curry nursing his sore ankle, the Dubs depend on Monta to be their offensive catalyst by pouring in baskets and tonight he simply couldn’t do it. Ellis finished the night with 18 points but needed 20 shots to get there and was only 2-5 from the foul line. Credit Matt Barnes for a lot of Ellis’ struggles, though. Matty pressured and harassed him in every half court set and clearly had Monta frustrated in the 2nd half with his physical D that didn’t draw many whistles from the refs. Barnes effectively chased Ellis around screens and sagged off him enough to help persuade him into taking jumpers. When Ellis did drive, Barnes smartly forced him towards the baseline and to his help and that greatly aided his effort in slowing the explosive Ellis. The night wasn’t all bad for Monta as he did finish with 10 assists by hitting his teammates when the Laker help did come, but if he could have strung more buckets together for himself, this game likely would have been there for the Warriors taking.
The first half of this game certainly qualified as ugly. It was so bad, on twitter I threatened to avoid writing a recap at all if the game didn’t get any better. The teams combined to miss 48 of their 82 shots, including 11 of their combined 13 three point attempts. They, together, committed 21 turnovers as sloppy passes and botched fast breaks ruled the first 24 minutes. The teams couldn’t even make their FT’s as they only sunk 6 of their 15 attempts from the line as well. But the numbers really don’t even do it justice. Aesthetically the teams looked bad. Golden State was playing fast but out of control. The Lakers looked slow and somewhat disinterested (save for Kobe, Gasol, and Barnes) in doing anything productive on the court. It was just an ugly display of basketball that thankfully got better in the final two quarters.
The Play of the Game
There were several Kobe moments that qualify here but I’m instead going with another Laker that had a good game. And, I’m not just going with a single play, but with a string of plays that were essentially exactly the same. Matt Barnes finished with 16 points on 7-9 shooting and nearly all his field goals were the same exact play: him streaking up the right sideline, making a catch on the run, and laying the ball in for an easy two. There’s nothing flashy about what Barnes did, but his ability to run the floor and finish on the break was vital to the Lakers tonight. His hustle gave the Lakers some easy buckets that they sorely needed while also providing a 3rd scorer to balance Kobe and Gasol’s efforts. So while Kobe had some fantastic turnaround jumpers and Bynum had a nice lob off a sweet Kobe dish and Gasol had a couple of swooping drives, I’m going with Barnes and his totally unspectacular lay ins as the play(s) of the game. They sure did make a difference tonight.