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The Golden State Warriors host the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday evening as they look to avenge a 117-112 Game One loss.
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The start of the Warriors-Lakers series went exactly as expected as the two teams played completely different styles fresh off-facing opponents of entirely different compositions and focus. The Warriors used their air-raid attack to sink 13 three-pointers in the first half, setting a franchise playoff record in the process, while the Lakers only made one three but were ultra-efficient on their two-point shots.
The second half saw the teams adjust and change their defensive coverages to account for the strengths of their opponent. LA seemed to have fully gotten the better of the hosts and had a 14-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter, but a 14-0 Golden State ensured the game was tied up in the final two minutes. The purple and gold then got a bucket and made a few timely free throws to see them over the line.
The Lakers had gotten two days extra rest heading into the matchup and used it to their advantage. Anthony Davis played 44 minutes and the entire second half on the way to a monster box score. Steph Curry engineered the late comeback but did not take the missed potential game-tying shot at the death, which instead went to Jordan Poole.
Davis was the best player on the court by some distance. He finished the evening with 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists, and four blocks, and is one of two players, alongside Tim Duncan, to have recorded such a game in NBA playoff history. He also covered for LeBron James who still does not have his offense going (22 points, 1-8 3PT).
Curry, Klay Thompson, and Poole all made six threes on a combined 45%. That would normally be enough to beat any team in the league, but the Lakers went 25-29 at the free-throw line, whereas the Warriors were just 5-6. No team took more free throws than LA during the regular season, and they used that to their advantage.
Both teams got solid bench production and committed the same number of turnovers (eight), and the rebounding battle was nearly identical (53 to 49). The series is shaping up to last seven games, as it has already become apparent how similar the teams are—not in terms of strength or approach, but in overall effectiveness.
The Lakers adjusted their first-half defense by bringing Davis higher on the pick-and-roll and making sure the primary defender stuck to the back of the Warriors’ ball handlers. That ensured that they couldn’t get up as many threes, although they still took and made a fair amount. Troy Brown Jr. in particular struggled to execute the new approach and may have played his way out of the rotation.
Golden State got an incredible game from Kevon Looney (10 points, 23 rebounds, five assists) but played better as a unit with him off the court. They were able to drag Davis out of the restricted area more often and also send more double teams at him on defense. Looney is great in his role but allows defenses to shrink, and he is also too slow to keep up with Davis.
The Warriors are also going to emphasize giving the Lakers fewer opportunities at the charity stripe. If they can stay disciplined, that will put more pressure on the Lakers, especially LeBron, to sink their three-point shots. Golden State also used a zone defense during its late-game surge that played on LA’s shooting deficiency and will likely roll it out again in Game Two.
The Warriors will win Game Two by simple mathematics as long as they don’t commit an abundance of fouls. The Lakers don’t have the personnel to account for all of their perimeter weapons for the entire 48 minutes, which is why they were getting so many open looks. Bury those shots and LA will be in a position it does not want to be in
Golden State is also going to have a much easier go of things if they put Curry onto the ball more. He was playing off the ball for most of the game, which is why it wasn’t surprising that he didn’t score in the second quarter and didn’t take a shot in the third quarter until roughly the halfway mark. He got back into becoming the initiator of the offense in the fourth quarter and changed the game.
This is going to have to be an Anthony Davis series from start to finish. His usual M.O. of following up enormous performances with pedestrian ones will doom his team, especially with LeBron struggling as mightily as he is. Rui Hachimura, Dennis Schroder, and Austin Reaves will also have to consistently step up to match the Warriors’ scoring volume.
LA also needs to play with the most intensity and focus on the perimeter defensively that it has all year. They were burned numerous times in transition and also lost contact with Golden State’s shooters on a variety of actions off the ball. Jarred Vanderbilt did a great job on Curry but will be tested every night.
The Lakers are the better team top-to-bottom, but the Warriors can and already proved that they can blow them out in five-minute stretches. The timing of those runs will be crucial for the Lakers, who usually don’t have the offensive firepower to respond and must instead be in the lead or close behind when the runs start.
The strongest play for Game Two is on the Warriors’ spread. LA needed to take the home court at some point in the series and smartly did it in Game One, and the Warriors are primed for a bounce-back.
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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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