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The Los Angeles Lakers head back to LA to play host to the Golden State Warriors after dropping Game Two to tie the series at one game apiece.
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Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ coaching staff earned their paychecks in Game Two. They completely reworked their offense from one predicated on player movement and constant motion to one that was ball-screen dominant and had Steph Curry playing the true point guard role and facilitating for others rather than playing like a combo-guard that would flash off the ball.
Darvin Ham’s Lakers were not prepared to handle the Warriors’ counter to their incredibly effective defensive strategy from Game One and were dissected in the pick and roll, leading Curry to a season playoff high in assists. He was especially successful at finding the pocket pass to Draymond Green off the high screen, who would then beeline for the rim or skip the ball to an open shooter in the corner.
LA also did not have the same level of energy that it did in Game One. Anthony Davis predictably had a down game, just as he did after his outstanding performances during the series against the Memphis Grizzlies, and LeBron James, Austin Reaves, and others were lackadaisical on defense. The decline in intensity let Golden State take a lead that would go unchallenged the rest of the way.
Thompson led the scoring column with 30 points on 8-11 shooting from three-point land. Curry had 20 points but more impressively racked up 12 assists and made three of his five attempts from three. The entire Golden State team combined to make 21 triples, the same amount it made in Game One, on 50% shooting and is now averaging 44.2% from long range in the series.
The Lakers got their first great scoring performance from LeBron who scored 23 but did not appear in the fourth quarter. Davis had a pedestrian 11 points and seven rebounds and was also significantly less impactful on defense because the Warriors’ defense dragged him into areas of the court he did not want to be at. Rui Hachimura was a bright spot off the bench with 21 points (4-6 3PT) in 22 minutes and should appear more frequently in Game Three.
The Warriors’ Game Two win extended a streak of teams that dropped home Game Ones winning Game Two to 16. Now, they have to face a Lakers’ squad that is 7-1 coming off of a loss ever since the All-Star break, which is around the time they remade their roster with several important trades. The Lakers were also three games better at home than on the road in the regular season and are 3-0 in LA in these playoffs.
The Warriors found success going small in Game Two, starting with benching Kevon Looney in favor of the floor-spacing JaMychal Green and later staggering Looney’s minutes with Draymond Green. The Lakers are going to have to find a way to counter that and the increased space on the court, because they cannot survive giving up 21 threes every night.
According to Land of Basketball, just under 80% of teams that go up 2-1 in a series eventually go on to win the series. The Warriors would be just fine getting a split in LA over the next two games and heading back to Golden State in a best-of-three situation. There are no prolonged rests during this series which appears to favor the Warriors.
The Lakers were unable to contain the perimeter and funnel the Warriors’ ball handlers into Davis in the lane as they did in Game One. They are going to need to scheme up new coverages to not allow completely open shots to the floor spacers without losing contact with Curry and Thompson at the point of attack. They also need LeBron to keep his newfound shooting momentum on a night Davis has his offense going.
The Warriors will win Game Three if they continue to put the Lakers on their heels. They succeeded in doing that by getting out in transition quicker and also getting Curry on the ball in the backcourt and allowing his presence to shift the Lakers’ defense up, opening up holes for his teammates to exploit. Spacing is the key for the Warriors in this series and they cannot get away from it.
The Lakers essentially needed to win Game One, and the Warriors needed to win Game Two. The series now heads back to LA where the Lakers are more comfortable and have a variety of advantages, such as the record after losses, working to their advantage. It is also the scheduled time for an explosive Davis night, whereas the Warriors cannot feasibly pour in as many threes as they have in the first two games.
The Lakers’ moneyline is the strongest play for Game Three, and it should be tight wire-to-wire. The Lakers’ spread is in play but does not represent a significant increase in value compared to the added risk it requires.
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Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
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