December 19, 2017, 6:24 am
The Lakers lost to the Warriors 116-114 in overtime for the second consecutive time on Monday, spoiling the night for Kobe Bryant and all of Los Angeles fans.
This was a truly magical night for Laker nation as NBA legends flocked to Staples Center to support Kobe during his one-of-a-kind jersey(s) ceremony. Among the members of NBA aristocracy to grace Kobe with their presence were Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’neal, Magic Johnson, Derek Fisher and Lakers’ family members Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka. Stories were shared and kudos were showered upon the hardworking legend who led the Laker franchise for two decades — the motivational evening brought a smile and a tear to many a Laker fan’s eye, just not a victory.
The energy in downtown Los Angeles was electric for hours before tip-off with the exterior of Staples Center mobbed with tens of thousands of people attending Kobeland and a Laker-themed festival in his honor. The buzz was palpable at the arena giving the feel of a playoff game. Unfortunately, it would appear that this would be the closest to replicated that feeling that this franchise will be during this calendar year as they were simply out executed down the stretch again.
Los Angeles played a pretty solid game but was simply out-done by Kevin Durant — the only transcendent player on the court this evening. He made clutch shot after clutch shot, including the game winner in overtime, and led the Warriors with 36 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and three blocks. The Lakers were able to hold Durant to 10-of-29 shooting from the field but he was able to convert 12-of-13 from the free throw line and lead a shorthanded team to another victory.
Durant was joined by Klay Thompson who finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and four 3-pointers. The Lakers were able to coral him from an efficiency perspective forcing him to shoot significantly below his season average at only 6-of-24 from the floor and 1-of-2 from the line. Thompson’s favorite player growing up was Kobe and perhaps the moment was simply too much as he did not play his best game on the evening.
The Warriors received some vital performances off their bench to lead them to victory for the ninth consecutive game. The most important of these contributions was by Andre Iguodala who accrued nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a game leading plus-19 rating.
Another huge bench contributor for Golden State was Omri Casspi who added 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Providing the final nail in the coffin was bench player David West who blocked Lonzo Ball’s shot on the last play of the game to seal the victory for the Warriors.
The Lakers had many wonderful performances by their young core, spear headed by the efforts of Ball who finished the game with 16 points, six assists, six rebounds, ones steal, two blocks and a plus-10 rating. Ball shot 6-of-12 from the floor, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and seven points in overtime to help keep the Lakers in the game before ultimately getting his shot blocked by West to end the game.
He was joined by fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma who played a stellar game with a team leading 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and a block with four 3-pointers on 10-of-16 from the field. Kuzma hit a few clutch shots in overtime and played extremely well while starting the second half for the injured Brook Lopez. Should Lopez be forced to miss time Kuzma would be asked to provide even more production for this Laker squad — a task he has proved he is up for.
Brandon Ingram started slow against his idol Kevin Durant but took over down the stretch and ended with 19 points, five assists, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks and plus-11 rating on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. There was a moment when he hit the ground hard after getting his shot blocked but returned to the game with only a cheek contusion. His one glaring weakness during this game was his below average 7-of-12 shooting from the charity stripe.
The last performance of note for Los Angeles was provided by Julius Randle who played a great game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and one block though he did accrue a minus-12 rating for the game. Randle also missed an opportunity for a huge and-one on the Lakers’ second to last possession and hit only 1-of-2 of the subsequent free throws to set up an opportunity for Durant’s game winning shot. Overall he played a solid game and may have a much larger role going forward with starting center Lopez leaving the locker room on crutches.
Key Stats and Observations
- Surprisingly the Lakers outshot the Warriors from 3-point range at 10-of-25 good for 40.0 vs. 11-of-34 for 32.4 percent.
- Los Angeles came into the game as one of the elite rebounding teams in the league but were dominated on the glass to the tune of 61-45.
- The Lakers were particularly careful with the ball in this contest with only 12 miscues compared to 15 for the Warriors.
- Los Angeles shot a higher percentage from the floor than Golden State at 41-of-92 or 44.6 percent vs. 43-of-107 for only 40.2 percent for Golden State. The 15-to-7 offensive rebound advantage for Golden State helped them shoot the ball 15 more times than Los Angeles.
- The key to the game was at the free throw line where the Lakers shot a miserable 22-of-35 good for only 62.9 percent. The Warriors were extremely efficient at the line for with 19-of-21 good for 90.5 percent.
The Lakers schedule does not get any easier as they go to Houston on Wednesday for a difficult matchup with the NBA best Rockets (25-4).
They will have to deal with MVP candidate James Harden who went into Monday’s 21-point defeat against the Utah Jazz with season averages of 31.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 4.2 3-pointers on 45.0 percent shooting from the floor and 86.5 percent from the line (on league leading 9.5 attempts per game). He is coming off a sub-par game of 26 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block on uncharacteristically poor shooting of 6-of-17.
One player who did not struggle on Monday was most-improved candidate Clint Capela who posted a monster 24 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and an absurd plus-35 rating while shooting 10-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the line.
Eric Gordon devastated the Lakers in the last matchup between the two teams and was red hot in his most recent against the Jazz with 33 points and seven 3-pointers on only 18 shots. Los Angeles can only hope he got it out of his system rather than the beginning of a hot streak.
As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge for Los Angeles they must also deal with former Laker (15 minutes prior to David Stern corruption) Chris Paul. CP3 is coming off a 18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, one steal, two blocks and a plus-20 rating.
The Rockets have won 14 games in a row and are practically unbeatable when Paul is part of their lineup.