LOS ANGELES — With the defending NBA champions in town, the Los Angeles Lakers shocked the Golden State Warriors 112-95 behind a balanced scoring attack.
After trailing early in the first quarter, the Lakers battled back to take the lead eventually expanding their advantage to double-digits after a steal and layup by D’Angelo Russell to give them a 56-44 lead. Los Angeles had three players in double figures at the half with Russell leading the charge with a first-half high 17 points. Marcelo Huertas had a first-half best six assists off the bench.
Stephen Curry was the only player in double digits with 13 points for the Warriors that saw the team shoot just 20 percent from 3-point range (3-of-15). The Warriors shooting problems persisted in the second half with the Lakers taking advantage of that by stretching in their lead to as much as 23 points.
Los Angeles finished with seven players in double figures led by Jordan Clarkson scoring a game-high 25 points. They also shot 47.1 percent from the field while dishing out 23 assists. Huertas had 10 points and a career-high nine assists. Julius Randle had his 26th double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The Lakers handed the Warriors just their sixth loss of the season, here are five things we learned from Sunday’s game:
Following a two-game absence due to a sore right shoulder, Kobe Bryant returned to the court on Sunday afternoon against the Warriors posting 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting with three assists.
Bryant struggled early on with his shot going 3-of-10 in the first half but managed to score 10 points, making him one of three Lakers to be in double figures at halftime. He also held a team-high plus 14 points in the first half. He was quiet in the second half scoring just two points and sat the entire fourth quarter with the game already out of hand.
It wasn’t that much of a surprise to see Bryant suit up given the implications of it being his final tilt against Golden State. Prior to the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had high praise for the 18-time All-Star.
“We all have so much respect for him and still do,” Kerr said. “Just his work ethic, intensity and competitive desire in the last 20 years. He has meant so much to the league.”
With 18 games left on the slate of his NBA career, Bryant did voice uncertainty about his status moving forward in the final stretch of the season.
“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “Hopefully (I play) all of them.”
Curry has an off night
The league’s reigning MVP is in the midst of an impressive season and on a hot streak entering Sunday’s game averaging 41.6 points and 7.6 3-pointers over his last four games. However, he had a sub-par outing with 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting, including 1-of-1o from 3-point range.
It had appeared things were headed in the right direction early with 10 points in the first quarter on 4-of-7 shooting but he was quite for the rest of the first half scoring just three points in the second quarter. Curry struggled to find any rhythm throughout the game despite getting the usual looks that he gets on a nightly basis.
That said, it shouldn’t overshadow his impressive campaign that’s even greater last year making him the unquestioned front-runner for the MVP award currently leading the league in scoring with 30.7 points along with leading the NBA in 3-pointers made for the fourth consecutive season (NBA-record 294), which made him the first player in NBA history to hit 200 threes in four straight campaigns.
He also ranks first in 30-point games (29), 40-point games (11), 50-point games (three), and has five games with 10 or more 3-pointers made. He has had the highest year-over-year scoring average of any reigning MVP in league history. In short, Curry is putting up another MVP-worthy campaign.
Warriors’ shooting woes
The Warriors entered the game with the highest-scoring offense in the league at 115.4 points led by their dynamic duo of Curry and Klay Thompson, however, that wasn’t the case against the Lakers.
Golden State struggled to get to establish any offensive fluidity throughout the game. The Splash Brothers both equally had difficulty finding their shot hitting a combined 13 of 40 attempts. This played a major part in their shooting woes from downtown that saw the team make 13.3 percent ( 4-of-30) of their 3-pointers in the game, which was a Lakers’ opponent low this season.
It also heavily contributed to the Warriors committing 17 turnovers while shooting 40.2 percent from the field for the game and finished with just two players in double-figure scoring.
“Our guys played about as hard as they played all season long,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t play as hard on Friday night. Before this game, we challenged them to compete and it kind of set them off. It was the best game we played against the best team.”
Russell bounces back
The 20-year-old coming off his worst performance since rejoining the starting lineup responded with 21 points and five assists against the defending champion Warriors.
Russell got off to a slow start in the first quarter knocking down just one of his first four shots but caught fire in the second quarter scoring 13 of his 17 first-half points that included knocking three straight 3-pointers. He was quiet offensively for the rest of the night making scoring just four points and dished out two assists in the second half.
This adds another strong performance to his second stint as a starter as he entered Sunday’s game averaging 19.7 points and 5.0 assists while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 50 percent (22-44) from 3-point range in seven games played This includes a career-high four straight games with more than 20 points.
Sunday’s tilt provided another prime learning experience for Russell playing against the best team in the league, which they received much guidance from the veteran presence on the team in Bryant and Metta World Peace.
“We were just trying to find any edge,” Russell said. “Kobe [Bryant] kept us on our toes. He was coaching us the whole game from the sidelines. Metta [World Peace], they were doing a great job of coaching us on the sideline. Telling us to push it when we got it, don’t wait. And it worked.”
Clarkson strong in his return
Clarkson made his return to the court after a one-game absence from his knee injury and didn’t skip a beat scoring a game-high 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range in a game-high 37 minutes.
He was effective picking his spots with his shots from various spots on the floor with most of his damage coming from 3-point range hitting his first four attempts. The 23-year-old didn’t show any limitations from his left knee and did a strong job covering his defensive assignment in Thompson, who went 7-for-20 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range. However, he credits the play of the team’s big men for the Warriors’ inefficiency offensively.
“It was the bigs. They were playing high up on the screens, making them shoot over two guys,” Clarkson said. “They did a really good job today. Usually trying to chase them off the line for us and they take tough shots.”
Clarkson has been the most consistent Lakers player this season scoring 10-plus points in all but five games this season. He has scored more than 20 points 14 times, and over the last 10 games he past that mark in six contests.
Bob Garcia IV
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