The Lakers took the Warriors' simplest punch and improved

May 20, 2021Ramona ShelburneESPN Senior Writer CloseSenior writer for ESPN.comSpent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily NewsLOS ANGELES -- By all accounts, the play-in tournament has been a resounding success for the NBA this year. It created exciting new scenarios toward the end of the regular season and mostly stemmed the widespread tanking that…

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Can also simply 20, 2021

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    Ramona ShelburneESPN Senior Writer


    • Senior author for
    • Spent seven years on the Los Angeles Day to day Info

LOS ANGELES -- By all accounts, the play-in match has been a convincing success for the NBA this yr. It created thrilling new instances towards the discontinue of the regular season and mostly stemmed the usual tanking that had made a mockery of the leisure month of play for the 14 groups that weren't making the playoffs.

And it gave us a scrumptious matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden Issue Warriors on Wednesday evening at Staples Center.

The game used to be an instant classic, with two of the league's brightest stars, Stephen Curry and LeBron James, matching every various with brilliant performances and hang shot-making that felt more indulge in no doubt one of their classic NBA Finals matchups than the play-in sport to rep to the exact playoffs.

James got the easier of Curry on Wednesday, hitting a 34-foot 3-pointer over him to seal the Lakers' 103-100 plot shut. The trey used to be the longest dash-ahead shot within the leisure three minutes of a sport in James' profession, in step with ESPN Stats & Info examine.

James done with 22 factors, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 128th profession triple-double (alongside side regular season, play-in and playoffs).

"It used to be excellent to rep that first punch," James talked about. "Mike Tyson continuously talked about, 'Every person got a thought unless you rep within the ring and you rep punched.'

"We did that, and it felt excellent. It felt monumental. It settled us. It wasn't overjoyed, nonetheless it no doubt settled us, and we were in a self-discipline to raise the fight to them. We're having a ogle forward to what's going to be in store for the postseason."

The Lakers' plot shut provides them the No. 7 seed within the Western Convention and a most critical-round playoff matchup in opposition to the 2nd-seeded Phoenix Suns. And it drops the Warriors, now battling for the 8-seed, into an elimination sport Friday in opposition to the Memphis Grizzlies (9 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Or no longer it is magnificent to request if the reward for all that pleasure is well worth the likelihood of with out doubt shedding no doubt one of many league's marquee franchises earlier than the playoffs formally delivery.

"Right here's a bitter tablet to swallow," Warrior coach Steve Kerr talked about after the sport. "This used to be our sport, and we couldn't rep it done."

The Warriors now have lower than 48 hours to regroup earlier than facing the Grizzlies in San Francisco. It is a little bit of redundant from the Warriors' regular-season finale plot shut over Memphis on Sunday that definite the eighth seed within the play-in match.

In any various yr, that plot shut would have sent the Warriors right into a most critical-round sequence in opposition to the discontinue-seeded Utah Jazz. Nonetheless this yr, they'll desire to play two extra video games, no doubt one of which is an elimination sport, accurate to attain to the the same sequence.

The usual proposal for a play-in match, in step with league sources, used to be to have the ninth- and 10th-self-discipline groups face off for an opportunity to play for the eighth seed. It came up in opponents committees for five or six years, earlier than finding a supreme opportunity for a trial speed closing season within the NBA bubble. That labored so neatly, the league opted to enlarge it to the current format, which also entails a play-in for the seventh seed.

All season prolonged, groups and stars who fell to the seventh build within the standings lamented the new format, which would possibly perchance well additionally effectively plot shut what had been a guaranteed playoff build and switch it right into a susceptible self-discipline.

Changed into once there self-interest within the abet of those gripes? Creep. Nonetheless there used to be also the stark realization that this would possibly perchance well also exact a heavy toll on a group indulge in the Lakers, who were devastated by accidents to monumental name players within the 2nd half of of the season. Or a group indulge in the Warriors, who won 15 of their remaining 20 video games to snag what would were a guaranteed playoff build in outdated seasons.


0: 56

Steph Curry ends the half of standard knocking down the three-pointer with the defense a ways and big him.

"You guys requested me just a few days ago how I felt. I talked about I'm engrossing to dash," James talked about about the play-in format. "Can also simply the chips lay where they'd additionally. I confirmed up, and we confirmed up. And we were engrossing to play."

In the most critical half of, L.A. regarded indulge in a group that can also've aged the week of apply, shooting accurate 32.6% and missing 31 images -- both season lows. The trio of James, Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder scored accurate 13 factors. Curry on my own had 15 factors, alongside side a contested 3-pointer over Alex Caruso to full the half of, with the Warriors main 55-42.

The Warriors' defense deserves just a few of the credit score for the Lakers' first-half of struggles. Golden Issue quietly grew to turn right into a good defensive group by the discontinue of the season within the abet of light Defensive Player of the three hundred and sixty five days Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins -- the light No. 1 total draft gain who has been a intellectual build for Golden Issue after his underwhelming originate with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In step with ESPN Stats & Info recordsdata, the Lakers went a blended 2-for-18 when defended by Green (2-for-9) or Wiggins (0-for-9) within the most critical half of.

The Lakers roared abet within the third quarter, at closing giving up on having fun with Andre Drummond at center. With the Warriors zipping the ball round, creating vitality and self-discipline for their shooters, L.A. nearly had no choice nonetheless to swap Davis to center, a self-discipline he does no longer gain.

Nonetheless Davis wasn't having a lot success as a vitality forward within the most critical half of, shooting accurate 2-for-12 from the sphere, so there wasn't a lot motive to stay with that alignment.

Davis used to be 0-for-7 from the floor when Drummond used to be on the court with him on Wednesday. Davis also shot 1-for-11 when either Drummond or Montrezl Harrell used to be on the court with him, in step with ESPN Stats & Info examine.

The swap bore instant outcomes. The Lakers went on a 25-10 speed, hitting 11 of 15 images after Drummond used to be taken out of the sport with 5: 16 to dash within the third quarter. The Lakers were +6 within the 21 minutes Davis played at center.

"The message at halftime used to be now we desire to play more physical; that is the final public solution to set aside aside it," Lakers coach Frank Vogel talked about. "The rotational tweak used to be, a play-in sport, an unheard of topic for us. In a playoff sequence, it is top to slay your adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 or Game 5 to Game 6. We knew coming into this that adjustments were gonna desire to be made in-sport.

"We regarded at our expansive lineups, within the most critical half of, that used to be the thought. To overview at halftime, whether or no longer to speed it abet or to regulate and play puny ... AD struggled to rep going with the expansive lineup, with Draymond within the market muscling him and no longer calling anything else. So a mixture of what I knew Wes [Matthews] would raise to our toughness and originate things up for AD and originate having fun with him on the 5."


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Anthony Davis will get the block on Draymond Green then comes down on offense and converts the and-1.

For certain, the Lakers' speed also overlapped with the 1: 37 Curry used to be out of the sport first and most critical of the fourth quarter. Kerr mainly likes to rep Curry more leisure than that, nonetheless the Lakers scored six straight factors with Curry out to plot shut their first lead of the sport, 81-79, on Kyle Kuzma's hook shot off a pass from James with 11: 05 to dash within the sport.

It used to be simplest the 2nd time Curry has played within the most critical two minutes of the fourth quarter all season.

Nonetheless this used to be a playoff-level atmosphere with playoff-level stakes (and an estimated 6,000 fans), even if it is no longer formally the playoffs yet. So Curry needed to play.

"The man is correct flat-out impossible," Vogel talked about of Curry. "Steve Kerr talked about we were going to throw the kitchen sink at him, and we did -- and he restful had 37."

In step with 2d Spectrum, the Lakers blitzed Curry on 15 gain plays on Wednesday, 13 of which came within the 2nd half of. That is the 2nd-most times L.A. has blitzed a single player in a sport this season.

Curry has handled defenses indulge in this all season. Nonetheless the sport tightened. In the fourth quarter, the groups traded leads thrice, with James scoring eight of his 22 factors, Davis at closing finding his stroke (13 of his 25 factors) and Curry scoring 11 of his sport-high 37 factors.


3: 03

LeBron James and Steph Curry hiss out within the play-in sport because the Lakers plot shut down the Warriors in a nail-biter.

James stayed within the sport after getting poked within the watch by Green and touchdown awkwardly on his left leg with 2: 07 remaining within the sport. He hit no doubt one of many 2 free throws, tying the score at 98.

Nonetheless it used to be the off-balance 3-pointer he hit in entrance of Curry with 58 seconds to dash -- James' longest slay of the season -- that sealed the sport for the Lakers.

"After Draymond's finger to the watch, I used to be literally seeing three rims within the market," James urged ESPN's Rachel Nichols after the sport. "I accurate shot for the center one."

It used to be the roughly deep, 3-point shot that Curry has hit over hapless defenders so many times over the years. And Curry bore the the same response to James' dagger he in most cases leaves on others.

Curry gathered himself, having a ogle to explicit revenge on the following possession. Nonetheless the Lakers would no longer let him beat them, trapping him within the backcourt on the following possession and forcing him to pass it ahead to Green to care for up away from a 10-2nd violation.

Green -- who did no longer slay a field fair within the sport nonetheless had nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks -- handed it on to Jordan Poole, who skipped over a 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining.

"Walked within the locker room and guys were upset, pissed off, mad we did no longer rep the job done," Curry talked about. "Nonetheless we'll be engrossing on Friday ... greatest sport of the yr."

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