Reviving a storied franchise from midseason doldrums was never going to be easy, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers to try once more to advance to the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers will play host to Game 6 on Friday, still up 3-2 in the conference semifinal series against the defending-champion Golden State Warriors but left to rethink their strategy in the wake of a 121-106 defeat in Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Warriors shot 51.1 percent from the field and earned the victory, despite committing 14 turnovers, by outrebounding the Lakers 48-38.
The Lakers received 25 points and nine rebounds from LeBron James in the defeat and 23 points with nine rebounds from Anthony Davis. But Davis played just 32 minutes, his lowest in the series, after leaving with more than seven minutes remaining when he took a blow to the head from the Warriors’ Kevon Looney.
“I didn’t see the shot, I just (saw) the aftermath,” James said. “But the medical team said he’s doing better. That’s what matters the most.”
The Lakers got good news regarding Davis on Thursday, as he was listed as probable for the game with his only injury designation involving a sore foot. Coach Darvin Ham said, “He’s feeling great.”
Los Angeles’ midseason acquisitions such as D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt have been key in the playoffs. Lonnie Walker IV, who has been with the team all season, came up clutch in a Game 4 victory. But the role players were held in check in Game 5 with a combined 23 points, and 15 of those were from Russell.
Now the Lakers return home where they are 5-0 in the playoffs, including victories in Games 3 and 4 of the current series.
“Friday is another opportunity for us to see where we are, to see what we’re made of, and to go out there with, I guess, the grit and the fight that we’ve had since we came together after the All-Star break,” James said.
Draymond Green had 10 rebounds for the Warriors and Looney added eight off the bench in 20 minutes, his most since Game 2 (eight) of the series as he works his way back from injury. Looney had 23 rebounds in Game 1.
Stephen Curry scored 27 points for Golden State, while Andrew Wiggins added 25. On Thursday, however, the Warriors added Wiggins to the injury report, listing him as questionable with a left costal cartilage fracture in his rib cage.
One Golden State player who is still searching for his touch on the offensive end is Klay Thompson. Thompson was 3 of 12 from the field and 2 of 6 from 3-point range en route to 10 points in Game 5.
Since going 8 of 11 on his 3-point attempts in Game 2, Thompson is 8 of 24 (33.3 percent) in the past three games. Curry is also below his standards from distance, going 10 of 35 (28.6 percent) in the past three games.
“In this series, the Lakers’ defense is really good; they’re great at the rim,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “We got to get the ball moving. We got to move their defense around. Steph understands that. I don’t know what his assist-to-turnover ratio is in this series, but it’s pretty impressive.”
Curry has 8.0 assists to 3.0 turnovers in the series, and in the past three games that has improved to 8.3 assists to 2.3 turnovers. But shooting from Thompson and Curry is how the Warriors thrive.
“I just love this stage so much and not (being) afraid of anything that’s going to happen and the outcome,” Curry said after Game 5 when asked about the balance of taking over offensively and deferring to teammates. “It’s just again getting lost in the game and understanding the versatility of being able to play a lot of different ways … and the trust that I have in my teammates to be along that journey with me.”
–Field Level Media