LOS ANGELES — So what did the Lakers do after the Warriors blew them out in Game 2? They gave it right back to the Warriors with a blowout of their own.
There were the adjustments that Darvin Ham made defensively. Putting Austin Reaves on Stephen Curry (23 points; 9 for 21 shooting), Jarred Vanderbilt on Draymond Green (5 points), and Anthony Davis on JaMychal Green (two points) made life a bit harder for the Warriors. It made it easier for Davis to play the pick-and-roll defensively and he was just everywhere on that end, altering and blocking shots (four more on Saturday night) inside.
The Lakers were so much more aggressive on the offensive end as well. Their defense allowed them to go on transition. When they were in the halfcourt, they moved the ball around (27 assists) and then the players did a lot more cutting and diving. It was such a different energy for the Lakers back in Los Angeles.
The early three-point shooting from D’Angelo Russell opened those lanes up. And with that inside attack, they were able to mix it up. The Lakers actually made more threes than the Warriors (15 to 13) to go along with their huge advantage from the foul line (37 attempts by the Lakers to Golden State’s 17). It also helped that the Lakers’ crisper defensive rotations subdued the Warriors’ perimeter attack; Klay Thompson only had 15 points (half of his Game 3 production) and made 3 of 9 from behind the arc. Only other players that scored in double figs for the Warriors were Andrew Wiggins (16) and Jonathan Kuminga (10 in garbage time).
Davis suggested that he didn’t do anything differently but I don’t think that’s the case. He was definitely more aggressive going to the basket in Game 3.
But it’s been unfair to put everything on Davis’s uneven play. I said during the game preview that “most of the Lakers didn’t look great in Game 2.”
And the Lakers knew that. Because I felt there was a conscious effort to get the supporting cast involved.
D’Angelo Russell scored the first 11 Lakers points on Saturday night. It wasn’t on the script (put away your NBA “script” jokes, everyone) that Russell was supposed to score those first 11 points but the team made sure to get him going immediately. Russell and Davis were clearly pugnacious in the first quarter. Russell scored all of his 21 points in the first half and after seeing the rest of the team’s impact, they didn’t need his scoring in the second half.
It might have been a bit overkill as it had fans having flashbacks about 2006 Kobe Bryant in the playoffs but LeBron James (who had quite the Saturday as his son, Bronny, declared he was going to USC) was doing his best to get everyone else involved. He didn’t put up a shot until four minutes into the second quarter and, thankfully, he got it going (ended with 21 points).
Dennis Schröder provided waterbug defense and timely three-point shooting (12 points; he made three threes). It’s the type of production that Schröder has done throughout the season whether he was starting or coming off the bench. We probably don’t give him enough credit on how he’s been such a great two-way player this year. And Lonnie Walker IV got to have a regular run in this game. He also scored 12 points and was a decent defender when he was on the floor (two steals). Walker has been such a professional throughout the season; he stayed ready even when his role was reduced drastically in the second half of the campaign.
Rui Hachimura only got 5 points but he’s been a threat to score in these playoffs. Jarred Vanderbilt has played tremendous defense in the Laker wins this series. The one we’re a little concerned about is Austin Reaves. He did go to the line to get those 10 points (5 for 8 from the stripe) but he’s just been struggling to shoot from the field (.321 from the field in this series and shooting .286 from three). Maybe Game 4 will be better for him.
As for Anthony Davis? His final line was 25 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four blocks, and three steals. Yes, his stats look fantastic every other game. Maybe he can also break the pattern in the next game.
The Lakers have made their adjustments and the Warriors will now do that for Monday night’s contest. If the Lakers are able to counter and continue this total team effort for Game 4, we could be looking at this franchise being one win away from the Western Conference Finals.
Considering that the Lakers were 2-10 and in the 13th seed for much of the season, that is a hell of an accomplishment.