A five-game win streak, Stephen Curry (and Andre Iguodala’s) return, and the beginning of a tough stretch of games that will go a long way to deciding where the Warriors find themselves in the postseason — all of that went into Sunday’s matinee with the Los Angeles Lakers.
That win streak was snapped in a tough, 113-105 loss, courtesy of an impressive performance by the Lakers, led by Anthony Davis. Golden State is now 7-24 on the road this season with 10 road games left in their final 17 games.
Lakers should be commended
It’s easy to look at the Los Angeles lineup and scoff, given that LeBron James is out (as was D’Angelo Russell, though he’s a net negative player), but the Lakers played incredibly hard, at a time when they cannot afford to keep losing.
For the Lakers, Austin Reaves caused them serious trouble on both ends. Anthony Davis was outstanding. Jarred Vanderbilt was a problem on the glass. They’re hungry, and yes, desperation is a part of hunger.
They made everything incredibly difficult for the Warriors with that effort. And that made for an excellent game.
Whenever the Warriors closed the deficit, the Lakers would hit a well-timed three, get something from Davis, or cut and finish inside to give themselves a hint of breathing room.
Davis looked like the best version of himself in a masterclass performance, scoring 39 with 8 rebounds, 6 assists and a couple blocks. Reaves hounded Golden State and put up 14 points with 8 assists, a steal and a block off the bench. Vanderbilt had 10 points and 13 rebounds, almost all of which came in the first half.
Credit has to be given to Los Angeles. They had a 7-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter to put them up seven. When the Warriors cut it to two inside of the final two minutes, they extended again, with a score and a couple free throws from Davis.
As solid as the Warriors played, the Lakers deserved this win, especially after another Warriors slow start. And it means that the Warriors lose another road game, and are now 0-18 this season when going into the fourth quarter with a deficit on the road.
Curry’s return highlighted lineup possibilities
With Curry and Iguodala available, the Warriors were able to create some fairly compelling defensive lineups. Even if they didn’t all work, there were some interesting combinations that hinted at what this team might be able to do down the stretch.
As a unit, the effort and intent was tangible. That has not been the case on the road this season. Their defense was not the problem.
Everyone offered something on that end on Sunday, even Jordan Poole. They just struggled to keep up with Davis’ scoring.
It seemed like they might turn it around late, and Curry almost brought them across the finish line late. He had 19 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, along with five assists.
The other player who made things close in the waning minutes, and who continues to highlight the versatility that the Warriors will have going forward, is Donte DiVincenzo.
In all of these close games, Donte DiVincenzo has come up huge, late. He set up Curry for a three that closed the gap from eight to five with two minutes left, then secured a rebound over Davis on defense, drove down the lane on the other end, and created a wide open three for Klay Thompson that made it a two-point game with 1:26 left.
He had 11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a block. In all likelihood, he will not be back next season. There’s no question he’ll cost more than his $4.73 million player option. That’s a good problem to have.
If Golden State gets Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II back, their defensive possibilities are tantalizing. Having DiVincenzo, Thompson, Wiggins, Green, Payton II, a few minutes of Iguodala? That’s going to be a sustainable cast in the playoffs.
While Sunday’s loss stings, there was so much to like. They got the best of Davis on a day they weren’t perfect offensively. But the defensive effort — the sort of thing that sustains a team in games from March onward — was visible.
Klay Thompson is no longer a question mark
It cannot be stated clearly enough: Klay Thompson is back. There have been moments on his long road to recovery when we have all wondered, “is he back?”
He’s had flashes, stretches, and some incredible games since returning from one of the most cursed stretch of injuries for any player in any professional sport.
But what he’s done over the last week, in particular, has answered that question. On Sunday, he had 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a block. He could have offered more in the fourth, but he kept Golden State close through some stretches when they needed him desperately.
He’s been effective in every facet of the game. He’s rebounded better than he has in his career. He’s slashing to the hoop and driving to the rim off the dribble. His defense is consistently impactful. And he’s shooting with a level of confidence that makes you think just about every shot he takes will go in. The deep shot from the top of the arc? The baseline mid-range fadeaway after giving a little shoulder into the chest of a defender? It’s all there.
With Curry back, Golden State has its iconic trio all playing at a high level at a time when it will be an absolute grind. There will be concerns about Draymond Green’s left hand injury, which required X-Rays, but his return, and indication that the results were negative, bodes well.