LOS ANGELES — “The Warriors can’t stop the Lakers!” said Mike Breen, play-by-play announcer for ESPN during the Lakers/Warriors game.
He said it.
The Lakers stampeded over the Warriors in 6 games and they are now back in the Western Conference Finals. The final score was 122-101.
Before gametime, Lakers coach Darvin Ham made one final adjustment. He countered Golden State’s small ball line-up by starting Dennis Schröder instead of Jarred Vanderbilt. While they lost size, the change was made so the Lakers can push the pace and that they can keep up better with Stephen Curry on the defensive end.
I said in the preview:
“There might be a lot of strategies involved with these two teams with all the cross match-ups, pick-and-rolls, defensive looks, etc. But it all might come down to energy and imposing their will on the other. These two teams are going to keep their profiles: the Warriors are going to continue to shoot from afar and run pick-and-rolls while the Lakers will continue to be physical, attack the paint, and get to the free throw line.”
And the Lakers jumped on the Warriors early. They were physical, looked a lot more energized, and attacked the paint. Lakers were up, 27-10.
The Warriors were in trouble early because they pretty much died by the three-pointer. Klay Thompson couldn’t make his open shots. And Anthony Davis was gobbling up every board.
Donte DiVincenzo came in for the Dubs and changed the game, playing hellish defense, and getting shots both with drives and threes. He scored 10 points and helped G. State cut the deficit to five points. Donte got in foul trouble, though, in the second quarter.
The Lakers were up, 53-46, Davis got a block on Donte as time was running out in the half. Then Austin Reaves did this:
Coming out of the half, the Lakers blistered the Dubs with an 8-2 run. From there, the Lakers went to work. The Warriors couldn’t stop LeBron on the block. Austin Reaves continued to make big baskets. Lonnie Walker IV got his heat back from Game 4. And D’Angelo Russell made big shots when the Lakers needed a counter. The only blemish here was Dennis Schröder getting ejected after a little… interaction with Draymond Green. But with the way the Lakers attacked, the Warriors didn’t stand a chance. The Lakers would go on to win Game 6 and stop the Warriors’ 19-series winning streak in the West. That is actually incredible.
There’s no other way to say it but the Lakers just played their game and threw the Warriors out of whack. It didn’t help that Golden State died by the three (13 for 48, .271). Meanwhile, the Lakers played incredible defense and ran the Warriors out of the gym (22-8 edge on fastbreak points). The Lakers will make fans think yet again with their huge advantage from the free throw line: 42 attempts by the Lakers compared to 14 by the Dubs.
LeBron James saved his best game for last: 30 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists. Anthony Davis got all the rebounds; he finished with 17 points and 20 boards. Austin Reaves closed the series huge with a 23-5-6 line. D’Angelo Russell got in the act with 19 points. And Lonnie Walker IV’s was instant offense with 13 points off the bench.
The Lakers made Stephen Curry work; he ended with 32 points (11/28 from the field and 4/14 from three). Klay Thompson never got going; 3/19 shooting and 8 points. Donte DiVincenzo was the only other Warriors player in double figures (16 points). Kevon Looney grabbed a crazy amount of rebounds with 18.
Tears of the Kingdom was released on Friday. I don’t know if that’s a metaphor for tears of joy for the Lakers surprisingly going on to the West Finals or tears of sadness that the Warriors’ dynasty could be ending. I don’t think so but I’m definitely interested in the immediate future for the Warriors. As long as they have Stephen Curry, I can never count them out.
As for the Lakers? They are getting the bubble rematch against Denver, the #1 seed in the West. It’s going to be a real interesting series as Denver is out to prove everyone wrong while the Lakers are on such a hot streak right now. But that is for Tuesday.
For now, Los Angeles, let’s enjoy this.