If you were expecting the Warriors to go out swinging, well, that’s not what you got.
With a chance to keep the hopes of a 3-1 comeback alive and send the series back to the Bay for a Game 7, Golden State was, instead, pathetic.
They missed everything, looking helpless against the Lakers in a 122-101 loss that sends the Steve Kerr-led Warriors home in the West for the first time ever.
Absolutely nothing went right for the Warriors in the first half. Despite that, they nearly ended it down just 10. It nearly concluded with them down five, if not for a blocked Donte DiVincenzo layup-turned Austin Reaves half-court buzzer beater.
Golden State was shooting at comically poor rates. They were 17-of-51 (33.3 percent) from the field and 5-of-21 from 3-point range.
Stephen Curry was 3-of-10 and 1-of-6 from deep. Klay Thompson: 3-of-13 and 2-of-8. Draymond Green: 2-of-5 and 0-of-2. Andrew Wiggins: 1-of-6 and 0-of-3. Jordan Poole: 0-of-2.
You felt like maybe, just maybe, that might bode well for the Warriors. They played terribly but were still very much in the game.
Nope. Nah. Not even close.
They couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
DiVincenzo (4-of-8) and Moses Moody (2-of-3) were the only Warriors players who shot better than 33.3 percent (Draymond Green, 1-of-3) from 3-point range.
They went 13-of-48 from deep, and that’s including a few garbage time 3-pointers.
Everyone else laid bricks in hard-to-comprehend fashion. Maybe it’s the attrition, the lack of legs that comes from playing a seven-game series followed by an every-other-day series.
It’s hard to find a satisfying explanation for such glaring shooting woes. But when you’re a team that lives and dies by the 3, well, sometimes — as it did on Friday — the latter will happen.
LeBron plays nearly perfect
LeBron James has never lost a closeout opportunity at home. He did not break that trend on Friday night.
There’s been a pervasive style of passive play from James for most of this season and throughout these playoffs. While he’s always been a pass-first player, he’s taken that identity to a new level this year, sometimes fading into the background.
On this Lakers team, that style has often made sense. The likes of Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Dennis Schroder and even Lonnie Walker IV are all capable of creating their own shot to varying degrees.
James doesn’t have to do it all on this team. At age 38, it’s clear he’s not the force he once was, at least all the time. He’s still excellent, but you can see how conscious he tends to be about conserving his energy.
But on a night like this, he showed he’s still got it. He had that look.
He was driving to the rim with the force and consistent finishing that we’ve come to expect from one of the greatest players anyone’s ever seen play the game of basketball.
You could see it from the jump. With Andrew Wiggins dealing with a fractured left rib cartilage, James backed him down early and aggressively on the second possession of the game. He put his forearm into Wiggins’ chest and finished for a score, clearly sending a message and testing Wiggins’ health.
James was his vintage self, finishing with 30 points (10-of-14, 2-of-3 from deep), 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and a block. Golden State had no answers.
Klay disappears and questions for the future
Maybe Klay Thompson was too excited for his homecoming. Whatever the reason, he was outrageously poor on offense since the series shifted to Los Angeles in Game 3.
In the three games leading up Game 6, Thompson was a combined 11-of-37 from the field and 8-of-24 from 3-point range.
He was somehow so, so, so much worse on Friday.
His start was putrid. But you wondered if perhaps he could pull of some fourth quarter heroics a la Jayson Tatum, who started 1-of-10 on Thursday before dominating the Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter.
That was not in the cards. Thompson finished 3-of-19 from the field and 2-of-12 from deep with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. Curry finished with 32 points, but on 11-of-28 shooting from the field and 4-of-14 from deep along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, a block and 4 turnovers.
Draymond Green? He left with a calf injury late but at one point was a game-low -33. He finished tied with Andrew Wiggins at -26 with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and a block.
Would this have been different if Andrew Wiggins wasn’t hurt, or, or, or, no. The Lakers were just far better from start to finish. James was outrageous, and got stellar performances from everyone else.
Anthony Davis had 17 points, 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Austin Reaves had 23 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. D’Angelo Russell had 19 points.
Even if the Warriors had enough depth to deal with iffy performances from their starters, it’s hard to salvage such an apocalyptically poor 3-point shooting night.
But, as it stands, they didn’t have enough depth. They went 0-28 on the road this season when trailing entering the fourth quarter. It makes you question whether almost everyone is expendable.
And their core of Curry, Thompson and Green is now 35, 33 and 33, respectively.
Questions immediately switch to the future of this group and the pieces surrounding them.
Is this the last we’ve seen of this group? Thompson has one year left on his deal and will make $43.22 million next season. Green has a one-year player option worth $27.59 million. Bob Myers’ contract expires after this year.
So what’s the plan? Keep the core and trade Jordan Poole? His four-year, $128 million extension kicks in next year starting with a $28.71 million cap hit. Will anyone take him if the Warriors want to trade him?
We do not have the answers to these questions. All we are left with is a preposterously poor loss that may signal the end of the Warriors dynasty.