As Lakers close in on series, Warriors lean on experience

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors will visit a place they have been twice before in the Steve Kerr coaching era when they seek to stave off elimination in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night in San Francisco.

Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV gave LeBron James and Anthony Davis the type of supporting cast Stephen Curry didn’t get from his more highly regarded teammates when the Lakers snatched a 104-101 home win in Game 4 on Monday to go up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The second straight win brought the Lakers to within one game of their first venture to the Western Finals since 2020 and their first in a non-bubble season since 2010. The Lakers went on to the NBA title in 2020.

Reaves (21 points) outscored and seriously outplayed counterpart Klay Thompson (nine points), while Walker saved all 15 of his points for a difference-making fourth quarter, helping to put the Lakers in a commanding position.

“The job’s not finished,” Reaves said afterward. “We come back on (Wednesday) and try to win that one. Keep the same mindset (that) it’s not the first one to win one game, it’s the first four. We gotta keep a good mindset moving forward and stay locked in.”

It is a solid plan, especially against the playoff-tested Warriors, who took a been-there, done-that approach for a must-win Game 7 on the road at Sacramento in the first round. Golden State played its best game of that series, riding Stephen Curry’s 50 points to a resounding 120-100 victory.

The Warriors, who have won 19 consecutive series against Western competition since Kerr became coach in 2015, have experienced 3-1 deficits twice in the last seven years.

They overcame Kevin Durant’s 40 points to win 120-111 at home over Oklahoma City in Game 5 in 2016, triggering a run of three consecutive victories that sent them to the NBA Finals.

Three years later, they needed a Game 5 win at Toronto in order to stay alive in the Finals, which they got behind Curry’s 31 points. But Thompson went down with a knee injury in Game 6 and the Raptors claimed the championship with a 114-110 win.

Kerr insisted his guys — led by the veteran core of Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green — embrace the one-game-at-a-time concept better than anyone left standing.

“Go home and you take care of business and you get a win and the momentum is right back in your favor. That’s all it is,” Kerr said. “Somebody has to win four times. That’s why you play it out.

“The Lakers did a great job of holding serve (at home), winning (Game 4) and coming back in the fourth quarter to take it. So now we’ve got to go back and get a win at home.”

The teams split the first two games in San Francisco, putting the Lakers in a position of winning two straight at home to go up 3-1.

Fresh off an easier win in the opening round (in a six-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies), the seventh-seeded Lakers stole the home-court advantage with a 117-112 win in Game 1. Anthony Davis set the tone for Los Angeles’ interior superiority in the series with 30 points and 23 rebounds.

Thompson, a Los Angeles-area native, came up big in Game 2, making eight 3-pointers in a 30-point performance that ignited a 127-100 victory.

Thompson couldn’t duplicate that form in Los Angeles, totaling 24 points in the two losses while making just eight of his 25 shots.

–Field Level Media

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