Get your popcorn ready. This battle of heavy hitters got off to a rollicking start as the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a narrow 117-112 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Anthony Davis starred, scoring 30 points on 11-19 shooting with 23 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and his usual dominant defense.
How did the Lakers steal home court from the defending champs? And how can Golden State avoid a second straight 0-2 series deficit?
Warriors-Lakers Game 1: Anthony Davis and the Lakers Outlast the Warriors
Anthony Davis Owns the First Half
The Warriors came out looking nothing like the mediocre, 44-win team they were in the regular season. They jumped out to an early 10-2 advantage with some hot shooting. The Lakers called timeout and gained an offensive rhythm by calling plays to get Davis the ball on the move going towards the paint. He exploded with 14 points in the first on 7-8 shooting. The Warriors shot 13-31, and the Lakers shot 12-22. A high-octane first quarter ended with Golden State leading 31-29.
Dennis Schröder set the tone in the second with his defense of Curry, who made two threes late in the first. He drew a push-off foul and picked Curry’s pocket for a layup in the first two minutes.
DLo celly ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/E2Q6fI7NY6
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 3, 2023
JaMychal Green got some run after playing 15 total minutes against the Kings and hit two threes of his own. The Lakers were able to find purchase in transition, while Klay Thompson showed why facing his favorite childhood team was a “dream come true.” He finished the half with 18 points on 7-14 shooting with four made threes.
Anthony Davis’ brilliance and some bullying offense from LeBron James helped the Lakers withstand a flurry from Jordan Poole. Poole had four threes in the quarter, one of them a four-point play. Los Angeles led 65-64 at halftime after a late James bucket.
LeBron responds to end the half 🍿 pic.twitter.com/dGU2nnfEWT
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 3, 2023
The Lakers Hold on in the Second Half
Los Angeles began to pull away in the third, led by the key role players in their backcourt. Former Warrior D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves combined for 18 points in the quarter as Curry and Thompson struggled to slow the duo. Russell made hay attacking for midrange pull-ups off the dribble, while Reaves showed off a Curry-esque relocation three.
The Lakers took an 86-76 lead with 5:23 left after James made his first three of the game. They entered the fourth up 96-88, with Curry on the bench for most of the final five minutes.
Los Angeles continued their onslaught in the face of some Curry threes in the fourth. James and Schröder led the Lakers’ offense to a 112-98 lead with 5:58 left, as Davis owned the paint on defense. Golden State responded with a championship mettle as the Lakers started to show exhaustion.
Curry continued along undaunted, and Thompson and Poole provided timely offense. The Lakers went scoreless for 4.5 minutes of game time, and a Curry three tied the game with 1:38 left.
Russell displayed resilience by following Curry’s shot (and his own airball from the corner) with a tough paint shot over Andrew Wiggins. After James split a pair of free throws, Golden State looked poised to send the game to overtime. Then, Draymond Green decided to swing the ball to Poole after Curry was doubled rather than wait for him to get open, and…
Jordan Poole for the tie 😬 pic.twitter.com/R4sJgNpbCe
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 3, 2023
Two Schröder free throws sealed the victory for the Lakers and their star duo.
How do the Warriors Win Game 2?
First, the positive: Golden State gave Curry much more offensive help than in Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings. Thompson started strong, and Poole had arguably his best game of the playoffs (21 points, 6-11 from three, six assists with no turnovers). The ending was disappointing, but they should gain confidence in being the fresher team in the fourth despite playing Sunday. Los Angeles last played Friday.
Still, Golden State will continue to enter each game down 6-0. The Warriors shot the fewest free throw attempts per 100 possessions in the regular season (19.7), while the Lakers shot the most (26). The Lakers were 25-29 from the free-throw line, while the Warriors were just 5-6. Golden State’s three-point shooting (21-53; the Lakers shot just 6-25) was an advantage in Game 1. The Lakers shot 36.2% from three on 31.3 attempts after the trade deadline, so the Warriors can’t count on such a large disparity in Game 2.
The Warriors will need more from Wiggins. He was solid; he played competitive defense on James and finished with 15 points. He was guarded by Russell to start the game, though. Wiggins needs to be more aggressive when he has that matchup. It would be huge for Golden State if he can force James to exert energy by guarding him one-on-one instead.
The Warriors made their run by ditching the motion offense and running high pick-and-roll with Curry at the helm. Warriors fans have complained about Curry’s pick-and-roll touches since 2015, but Steve Kerr’s system saves wear-and-tear on Curry. Even so, the adjustment in every tough playoff series is “put the ball in Steph Curry’s hands.” Given James’ familiarity with the Warriors’ offense, the time for that adjustment could be just around the corner.
The Last Word
Steve Kerr calls JP's 3-point attempt with 10 seconds left "a great shot for us." pic.twitter.com/dcRzTCgITL
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 3, 2023