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3 takeaways after Warriors stave off elimination in impressive win over Lakers

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

An attempt to achieve the improbable began on Wednesday night.

The Warriors put themselves in a 3-1 hole with some uneven performances that were met by clutch, late minutes from the Lakers. In their return home, they were far more composed, staving off elimination with a 121-106 win.

Smart(er) basketball

So much of this Warriors season has been plagued by disjointed, sloppy play. Egregious turnovers borne from pressing too hard. Wretched shot selection. A lack of intent and commitment on the defensive end.

It was difficult to square those inconsistencies with the knowledge that this team has more playoff experience than any other team in the league.

It’s often taken circumstances like this to jolt the best out of them. Their first half performance — aside from a few ill-advised, contested 3s from Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole — showed a seriousness that has been absence at times in this postseason.

By the second half, the defense started to come around. The injection of Donte DiVincenzo — as someone who fights around screens — was rough initially on offense, but started to reap massive defensive benefits.

Their ability to switch effectively without fouling was paramount to their success.

The Lakers are foul merchants. The likes of Austin Reaves, Dennis Schroeder and D’Angelo Russell jolt their heads back whenever there is or appears to be contact. That tends to give Los Angeles a handful of ticky-tack fouls which, if timed to their advantage, can get them to the line early in quarters.

Golden State avoided that trouble in the fourth and generally adopted a strategy of going straight up as much as possible. It didn’t mean the books were completely clean of fouls. There was one particularly egregious flop from Reaves in the early fourth without contact that stood out.

But the persistence of their effort on either end — as well as an Anthony Davis injury that saw him miss the final minutes of the fourth — kept a decent buffer till the end.

The combination of cutting and swinging the ball offensively, while remaining steady defensively set them up for this win.

Curry gets some help

The story of Game 4 was Lonnie Walker IV. After being almost invisible for most of the series, he went thermonuclear late, scoring all 15 of his points in the final frame.

The other story was that the Warriors offered Curry very little help. Had the franchise lynchpin been provided some assistance in key moments, Walker IV’s burst may not have been so consequential.

Instead, Klay Thompson had 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-9 from deep. Jordan Poole had a goose egg, missing all four shots, including both of his 3s. JaMychal Green missed both his 3s. Andrew Wiggins had 17 points but was 2-of-6 from 3-point range. Draymond Green had 8 points.

That issue was remedied on Wednesday night. Draymond Green was proactive as a scorer from the outset, with 12 first half points. He had a rare 20-piece, along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, a couple steals, a block and 5 turnovers. It’s the second time this postseason he’s eclipsed the 20-point mark, a feat he previously hadn’t accomplished since 2019, in the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Andrew Wiggins was more effective than he was with his 17 points on Monday night, and consciously looked for his shot. He had 20 points midway through the third quarter and finished with 25 points (10-of-18, 2-of-5 from 3-pt), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a turnover.

Thompson started 1-of-7 from the field, but exceeded his Game 4 output with 10 points by the early third quarter. He did, however, get stuck at that mark in another poor game from him.

Poole, who had been literally unplayable, started well. Instead of taking a bad 3 (he would take a few of those later), he drove, got to his spot, and hit a mid-range jumper. When he drives without doing that insane Tasmanian devil-esque spin move he does near the top of the key, it tends to work out well.

While he was terribly inefficient in his 23 minutes — 11 points (5-of-14, 1-of-6 from 3-pt), 4 assists — he was playable.

Gary Payton II, meanwhile, did just about everything right. He had 13 points (4-of-5, 1-of-2 from 3-pt), 6 rebounds, a steal, an assist and a couple turnovers. His impact was felt on defense and in crashing the boards offensively.

Oh, and Curry? Magnificent. While he once again struggled to get it going from deep, he was nearly automatic from inside the arc and ran the offense with a patient intelligence that suggested, yeah, he’s been here before.

He and Green were dominant together, and buoyed the Warriors through moments when things could have gotten away from them.

Curry had 27 points (12-of-14, 3-of-11 from 3-pt), 8 assists, 3 rebounds, a block and a couple turnovers. Some of his deep misses were ill-advised, and even with them, he’s playing as well as he ever has. He’ll need to keep doing so if the Warriors are going to pull off this comeback.

Not dead yet

Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors are now 8-2 in elimination games.

After the Game 4 loss, Kerr talked quite a bit about the impact that one win can have. Each game, he’s stated, is isolated. But momentum can carry.

That argument has felt a bit hopeful, like an optimism borne out of necessity.

But can you blame him? This team — albeit not this version — has done this before. They’ve also had it done to them.

So who’s to say this team can’t make this comeback?

Curry is as dogmatically resistant to this group being split apart as he ever has. It’s clear Green is in lock step with him, as he channels the vintage, glorious ferocity that defines his game.

They know, as well as anyone, that this entire operation is on the line.

Thompson, Green, Andre Iguodala, Bob Myers? If Golden State can’t make it to the next round, they may all be gone.

You’d like to think they’d run it back just one more time, but as everyone gets older and more expensive — and as a new collective bargaining agreement threatens further financial punishment for teams over the tax threshold — the clock gets closer to hitting zero.

For now,, though, they are clutching on to the fraying ends of this dynasty. The embers of this flame have not yet been extinguished, as close as they may appear to be.


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