Before Sunday’s matinee, the Lakers had only won 12 games and their opponent, the Warriors had only lost 5. If numbers like this were the case after 25 games they might seem normal. But we are in the home stretch of the NBA season and the Warriors are historically great while the Lakers, at least in terms of their franchise history, are historically bad.
This game, then, was supposed to be a formality. But the Lakers flipped that narrative on its head by beating the Warriors 112-95, controlling the action for much of the game and leading for the final 30+ minutes of the contest. It was, from a score and control standpoint, their easiest win of the year and it came against the best team in the league.
If we didn’t have the highlights, I might not believe this actually happened. Fortunately, though, we do.
All the highlights from the Lakers win over Golden State!!https://t.co/NwbVnZ7x8t
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 6, 2016
More than anything else, this game was fun. It was fun to see the young players do so well — to see Russell bounce back from his subpar game on Friday and resume his hot play from the past moth, to see Clarkson get hot from behind the arc and short circuit the Warriors’ defense, to see Randle work the glass + slip into the creases of the defense to score, to see Marcelo Huertas bring the “Brazilian Nash” moniker to life with some fantastic passes and one-legged finishes around the paint.
It was also fun to see the team rewarded with a win after playing hard and smart on both ends of the floor against a good team. Especially against this team. The Warriors, for most of this season, have found ways to win games where teams do pretty much everything right against them. They find ways to turn a minor, every game mistake into a stepping stone for a run. They turn double digit deficits around in a few possessions, then pour gas on their own fire and shift the tenor of the game in their favor, never looking back.
It wasn’t in the cards for them today, though. And while a lot of that was due to their own play, it would be disingenuous to not credit the Lakers too. It was the Lakers’ bigs who didn’t get caught sagging low on the P&R where Curry or Klay got clean looks coming off picks. It was the Lakers’ guards who fought hard over picks and were active in the passing lanes. And it was a team effort to keep continuity within the defensive scheme, not allowing the Warriors the types of repeated open looks they punish so frequently.
And yes, it was only one game. But what a game it was. For one day the Lakers looked like the best version of themselves. The fact that it came against the league’s best and it led to a double digit win at home made it that much sweeter.
Now, for some extra notes:
- What’s that, you say? That’s not a note of any sort? You’re right. It’s not.
- The Lakers won this game with their defense, holding the Warriors to an Offensive Rating of 91.1 for the game.
- The Warriors only shot 4-30 from behind the arc. For comparison’s sake, Jordan Clarkson made 4 of his 6 attempts from deep. If you’re looking for the main reason the Warriors never put it together on offense, the conversation pretty much starts and ends there.
- The other key on defense? Forcing turnovers. The Lakers had 12 steals and forced 20 turnovers overall. Some of that was sloppy play by the Warriors, but give the Lakers credit for jumping passing lanes, having active hands, and simply not quitting on plays where it looked like they might be beat.
- Marcelo Huertas has been a regular on “Shaqtin a Fool” this year for some of his more, well, hilarious exploits. But this guy really can play point guard. Surround him with more talent than what’s found on the Lakers’ garbage time group and suddenly he’s whipping passes to shooters cross court, dropping pocket passes to the roll man in the P&R, throwing soccer-style over head passes for lobs, and just playing a joyful brand of offensive basketball. It all came together for him on Sunday and boy was it fun to watch.
- This wasn’t Kobe’s best game, but he was a stabilizing force during his minutes. He never once forced the action, moved the ball well, and did good work off the ball as a cutter and by ducking into the post within the Lakers’ motion sets.
- Speaking of the Lakers’ offense, credit Byron Scott for implementing this “set” (as he calls it). Russell and Huertas look much better running this than the Princeton and it has led to more ball and player movement. Why they couldn’t have run this for the entire season is beyond me, but that’s a topic for another day.
- This dunk didn’t count, but I don’t care. Let Larry dunk:
— NBA On Def Pen (@NBAOnDefPen) March 6, 2016
- My other favorite highlight from this game? Russell pulling a “Curry” by spinning around/knowing this corner three was going in:
- Brandon Bass…I cannot say enough good about him. Dude is just plays hard and knows how to use his physicality to his advantage. He as a team high +16 on the night, hit 5 of his 7 shots, and added 7 rebounds (3 offensive). I know the Lakers are set at PF moving forward, but I wouldn’t mind having him back next year as a small-ball C. After starting slowly, he’s been a revelation in that role this season.