March 15, 2018, 4:20 am
The Lakers fell short against the Warriors on Wednesday, losing 117-106 to a team missing three of their four best players.
Golden State did not have Stephen Curry, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson available — most teams would not have been able to compete at all. The Warriors were able to rely on Kevin Durant and their role players for a win against a surging Lakers team that had won eight of their previous 10 games and 20-of-29.
Durant didn’t go crazy or individually carry the Warriors as one would have expected, though he did draw a lot of attention. Instead, he played his usual balanced role in the offense and relied on key contributions from his teammates: Zaza Pachulia (10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists), Nick Young (18 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal), Omri Casspi (15 points and seven rebounds) and Shaun Livingston (13 points, four rebounds and two steals). Although Golden State was missing three of the best players in the league, they had the depth to overcome the loss.
The Lakers, on the other hand, could not overcome the loss of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Los Angeles does not have the same depth that the Warriors do and their injuries left their bench completely bare. Their bench did not consist of solid NBA contributors, rotational veterans or an NBA Finals MVP — they had a collection of G-League players and one player who hasn’t even had a chance to practice with the team.
Because so many of the injuries occurred to the Lakers’ wing players, Los Angeles was forced to play a lot of people out of position. Lonzo Ball started at shooting guard for the first time in his career and Brook Lopez was forced to play some power forward next to Ivica Zubac. Perhaps the changes contributed to the lack of continuity tonight as the Lakers often appeared discombobulated on the defensive end, confused on their rotations and responsibilities. The Warriors, a very sound offensive team, were able to use back door cuts, screens and movement to take advantage of the Lakers to get wide open shots all night long.
Even with all the deficiencies, the Lakers went into the half tied at 55 on a tremendous instinctual buzzer tip-in by Ball, one of the few shots he was able to convert on the night. However, the Warriors used a 12-0 run in the third to pull away from the Lakers — they were never able to get closer than five points again.
The Lakers got another strong performance from Julius Randle, who finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. He appeared a bit frustrated during the game, fouling out as well as getting into a brief altercation with teammate Isaiah Thomas on the bench. After the game, they both downplayed the incident as just two teammates arguing because they wanted to win and do what was best for the team.
Brook Lopez played another excellent game, tallying 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and a season-high five blocks.
Thomas, who started for the first time as a Laker, accumulated 20 points, seven assists, one rebound and one steal.
Ball had his third off-shooting night in a row, making only 3-of-11 from the field, 1-of-8 from 3-point range and 1-of-3 from the free throw line. He was able to contribute eight points, five rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and one block. Ball needs to find a way to vary his game to help facilitate the Lakers’ offense a bit; he cannot continue to play passively in the half court, shooting 3-pointers as his only means of contributing.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers allowed the short-handed Warriors to shoot 44-of-80 from the field (55.0 percent) even though they only made 6-of-20 3-pointers (30.0 percent). Los Angeles cooled down from their recent red-hot shooting, converting 38-of-83 from the field (45.8 percent) and 12-of-37 (32.4 percent) from 3-point range.
-Los Angeles struggled badly from the free throw line tonight, knocking down just 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) vs. 23-of-28 (82.1 percent) for Golden State.
-The Warriors crushed the Lakers on the glass 50-33 including 11-6 on the offensive end and a 39-27 edge in defensive rebounding.
-Golden State committed 22 turnovers leading to 29 points for the Lakers, one factor that kept the Lakers competitive on a night when they were fatigued, undermanned and simply not playing well.
-The Lakers’ bench was outscored 39-23 for the game but accrued most of their points in the fourth quarter with the game somewhat out of reach. The tally was 30-9 after three periods, a disparity that was too much to overcome tonight.
The Lakers host the Miami Heat on Friday night. The last time the teams met the Lakers obliterated the Heat 131-113 in Miami in one of their best overall offensive performances on the season — the Heat will be looking to return the favor when they visit Staples.
Los Angeles will hope to get back either Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma to bolster their depleted roster.
The Heat are led by All-Star Goran Dragic, who is averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists on the season. Miami is jockeying for playoff seeding; they currently sit in the eighth spot of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and are only 4.5 games out of third overall seed.