LOS ANGELES — Each game, a new step into the comfortable spotlight for the Los Angeles Lakers, a group growing more confident in itself by playing.
Each game added to the pressure of defending one title with the champion Golden State Warriors, creating a new issue for Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry to manage.
The Lakers are proving to be little more than your average seventh seed, now not the cheerleading outfit here, and crypto. Monday Night Arena.
Two nights ago, it was D'Angelo Russell who was on the offensive, leading the Lakers to a blowout victory. This time, it was little-used Lonnie Walker IV who starred – nearly outscoring the Warriors himself with all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter.
He was bouncy and opportunistic, evident from his early entry in the fourth when the Lakers needed a boost. You kept wondering when Derwin Ham was going to take him out and take the night back to lebron James and Anthony Davis.
James and Davis continued to focus on the defensive end, each making key stops when the Warriors threatened. The last was when the two started a signature Warriors play where Draymond Green looked for Klay Thompson but Davis and James switch screens, resulting in James stealing,
They both later admitted that they were happy to be in on the action – the corporate knowledge of what warriors traditionally do sometimes works in their favor.
He left the offense to players more equipped to handle it, most notably Walker IV.
With each minute that passed, he kept reminding himself and others why he was constantly in the rotation to start the season and had big nights until things changed all of February with personnel moves that forced him out of the rotation. Took away
“You know, weather the storm, learn to dance in the storm,” said Walker IV. “There are things that are uncontrollable, you know, I got injured … but I stuck with it. I stayed in the gym, still being a great partner, and just being professional.
He brought the Hurricanes to the Warriors, looking confident and catching them off guard. Again, this allowed James and Davis to focus on defense separate from rebounds, where both asserted themselves to keep the Lakers in the game. He stumbled many times, but did not break.
Ham said of the Walker IV, “When your mind and heart are in a good place, the body follows.” Kudos to him. We went from possession to possession, next game mindset. Lonnie Walker is right in the middle of it.
Davis finished his up-and-down, up-and-down performance with a 23-point, 15-rebound night, but his defense was again all-world. James helped the Lakers out of a minute crunch, and although he didn't shoot particularly well, looking downright sloppy at times, posted a stat of 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in 42 minutes. It was enough to make a line. At one point in the fourth quarter, he was pulled out by Haim, but returned himself 10 seconds later without taking a seat on the bench.
After starting the fourth quarter down 7, James scored on a run to tie the game when the Warriors threatened to run away and tie the series.
“We spent a great deal of half time watching clips. Sometimes you have to listen to your players,” Ham said. “You have to listen to your players; it has to be collaborative. People are watching the game in an honest and real way. LeBron did it. Doing what he always does.
The Warriors, well, they seemed intent on making things as difficult as possible and now that they've dug a hole maybe four championship rings won't get them out. In the second half, he had chances to put away the Lakers several times.
It didn't come easy, the Lakers certainly felt as desperate as they needed to be, but the Warriors had an advantage. But Curry had an excellent night everywhere except the 3-point line — somewhat similar to Game 2 when he controlled the pace and set up teammates for a party of open shots.
He took over the game with a triple-double: 31 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds like Magic Johnson, or even James, in his prime.
Unlike Game 2, however, the Warriors needed Curry to put the team on their backs. That may be unfair considering all the orchestrating he's done, but Curry has reached a level where nothing is impossible in these venues.
He hit just 3 of 14 – meaning he's due, in a way. But they needed him in that range on this night. Thompson had a nightmare showing in the series that he felt was a dream come true, when the Warriors needed sound play to start chattering. In fact, he did it twice – thus following the walk on the wild side that seemed to be his trademark through the decade or a lack of respect for the seriousness of the series.
In two games in his hometown, Thompson shot 8-22 and was minus-21. But he pales in comparison to Jordan Poole, who has been missing in his minutes and looking out of confidence.
This left Curry alone offensively. Kerr dialed up Gary Payton II in the starting lineup, and it got the Warriors off to a great start. The play of Peyton II and Moses Moody broke down the Warriors several times after the stoppage, and it caught the Lakers by surprise.
But they needed a set offense, and Curry could not rely heavily on anyone else. Payton II scored 17 in 23 minutes, but if he and Andrew Wiggins are the main scorers behind Curry, something went wrong.
For whatever reason, he couldn't deliver the way he's most lethal — missing on a floater that would have tied the game with 26 seconds left and reeling off an offensive rebound that started from 30 feet after Green. Received.
Both were in front of Davis, whom James called the best defensive player in the game during his postgame interview on TNT. Davis was steady, even though he faded late in the run due to fatigue, but he was intimidating enough to prevent the Warriors from running away in terms of injury in the paint.
The Warriors attacked the Lakers and used their momentum throughout. It was their fourth quarter offense that spelled doom.
And the two teams face off in San Francisco on Wednesday night — one team on the rise and the other faltering, searching for answers.