Lakers one win from conference finals after victory

The Lakers' 104-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Monday and has them on the brink of returning to the conference finals.

LOS ANGELES — I have mentioned this before but Lonnie Walker IV is a professional basketball player.

He didn’t play much in the first round. But Lonnie made a pretty big contribution in Game 3. And he saved the Lakers in Game 4 as they came away with a huge win, 104-101. The Lakers now have a 3-1 series lead against the defending champions.

The Warriors made a wrinkle themselves to start the game as they inserted Gary Payton II in the line-up.

Lakers decided to get Anthony Davis involved early. It seemed like they made a conscious effort to get him the rock.

But the problem was that the Warriors decided to run pick-and-roll on Davis and got him out of the paint. Stephen Curry got into the paint over and over and scored 14 of his 17 points in the second. Still, nobody could stop Davis as he scored 19 in the half. LeBron James scored 11 in the first half but he mostly settled on jumpers and looked listless on defense. The Warriors led in the half, 52-49.

The Dubs took advantage as the ghost of the Lakers third quarter loomed. They got stops and scored on nearly every possession, getting the Dubs up to a 73-61 lead. Still, while Curry wasn’t shooting well, he was playing like a classic point guard as he kept finding guys like Andrew Wiggins, Donte DiVincenzo, Moses Moody, and Payton. Donte’s three put the Dubs up, 84-77, entering the fourth quarter.

And then it happened. Lonnie Walker IV sank a three-pointer to get the run going. Right after that, LeBron and Davis made back-to-back buckets inside the paint. The game was quickly tied at 84. Walker would follow it up with a lay-up to make it a 9-0 run.

Lonnie would make another short jumper before Curry made a four-point play to put the Dubs up two. Still, Walker’s hot shooting continued as he made a long J to tie the game.

Klay Thompson had a bad shooting night but his three put the Dubs up, 99-96. After two LeBron free throws, Klay missed another three. The ball went back to Lonnie and he made a clutch jumper to give L.A. the lead back.

With the Lakers clinging to a 102-101 lead, Curry missed a tough fadeaway. The Warriors got the board and Curry missed a long three with Davis defending him on both shots. Lonnie Walker got the ball and converted two clutch foul shots.

The Warriors had a chance for a tie but Draymond Green threw away the ball as he drove. Davis got tied up after the rebound. Andrew Wiggins won the tip and the ball went to Curry, who ended up going to the floor. They had timeouts but Curry hurriedly got rid of the ball and it went out of bounds. The Lakers ran out the clock in the next possession and now they’re one win away from a return to the Western Conference Finals.

Of course, I’m going to talk about Lonnie Walker IV. Like I said, he saved the game; he scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter. He hadn’t played much in the postseason but he had been getting minutes in this series. Hell, he hasn’t played as much after the trade deadline but this isn’t the first time he’s had a big game after getting little to no run; he scored 20 points in a huge win against Oklahoma City where they went to .500 for the first time this season.

He’s a professional that never complained. He put his head down and kept putting in the work. Walker was rewarded with minutes in Game 3 and in Game 4, he was a huge reason why the Lakers are up, 3-1, against the Warriors.

Both teams played like their profiles: Warriors ran a lot of pick-and-roll and continued to shoot from three. It was, however, baffling that they went away from the pick-and-roll for most of the second half. The Lakers attacked the paint and ran after they got stops.

Anthony Davis still had a hell of a game with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and three steals. People will point out that he only scored four points in the second half but he was still a difference on the defensive end (especially against those two shots late against Curry). He actually looked tired in the second half and I felt like they were trying to save him for the fourth quarter offensively. Turns out that wasn’t needed.

I worried for Austin Reaves on the offensive end but he scored 21 big points in Game 4. LeBron James actually didn’t play great; that 27-10-6 line looks deceptive. But he did come up with some big plays in the fourth quarter after looking quite lethargic for most of the game. Dennis Schröder scored 10 points off the bench and was pretty good defensively (though his behind-the-back pass late in the game was such a bonehead play).

I hoped for the Lakers to step it up besides Davis and… well…

Stephen Curry finds a way. He didn’t shoot well (3 for 14 from three) but he had a triple-double as he was aces on setting his teammates up (31 points, 10 boards, 14 assists). Andrew Wiggins scored 17. Gary Payton played very well and put in 15 points. Klay Thompson, however, only had 9 points off 3 for 11 shooting.

It was quite a lot of checkers, chess, and Fire Emblem being played in this game (strategy!). We saw pre-game adjustments, in-game fixes, and secret weapons being unleashed. We saw all that was the good, the bad, and the ugly in the playoffs in this game.

The Lakers are hoping the Warriors do the bad and the ugly in Game 5. Because that would mean the Lakers would be going back to the West Finals for the first time since the bubble season.