The Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in the NBA at 11: 4, but the defending champions are anything but perfect. After building an enormous lead over the Golden State Warriors at home on Monday evening, the Lakers finally fell between 115 and 113. Despite a perfect 7-0 record, the Lakers are now only 500 with a 4-4 mark at home .
It was an unforgettable performance by practically the entire team. LeBron James and Anthony Davis had identical 6-of-16 shooting lines while the entire team made 16 sales. The Warriors were far from perfect, but they managed to capitalize on the Lakers’ mistakes to claim a win that put them past 500 after being recently thrown back to 6-6 by a skid. Here are four major takeaways from the Monday night thriller.
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1. Never take your foot off the accelerator pedal
If you’re looking for a game that embodies the Lakers’ loss, this was the moment with less than a minute left in the second quarter. The Lakers forced a turnover and gave LeBron a 4v1 chance in transition. Instead of attacking the basket, he kicks it to Dennis Schroder in the corner for a 3-pointer.
The result was harmless enough. Schroder missed, but Davis grabbed the rebound and made two free throws after being fouled. It’s the Lakers season in a nutshell. You are so talented that the wrong process can lead to the right result. The Lakers should have come out of this quick break with a layup. They got lazy and still got two points out of the game.
But that approach didn’t last. The Lakers led this game in the first quarter alone with 19 points. They led by eight with less than four minutes to play. But they lost in large part due to their own laissez-faire approach to protecting leads. The Lakers took their foot off the accelerator. Her opponents haven’t been good enough to punish her for it so far. The warriors were and hopefully it will remind the Lakers that the games are 48 minutes long.
2. Old reliable
The faces around the two may have changed, but Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are still playing the exact same dagger game they’ve been abusing since 2015. The curry green pick and roll is practically unstoppable.Monday has proven that this can be the case even without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
The logic is simple. There are only so many ways you can defend a pick and roll. Double curry from the screen and Green gets a 4-on-3. He will either make the right pass out of it or get a simple layup like he did here.
Turn the action and Curry gets a disparity against a great man. Yes, even Anthony Davis qualifies for this handover, a cousin of the traditional pick and roll.
There is no answer here. Defend it traditionally and Curry enters a chin-up 3. You can’t flash and you can’t switch. Most of the time, this game will deliver a clean shot. All you can do defensively is hope they miss. The warriors didn’t do it on Monday. Even without Durant and Thompson, the warriors have the same target move as always.
3. The clock is running out due to the positive variance of the Lakers
The Lakers are an excellent defensive team, but they benefited from a lot of luck at the start of the season. Opponents shot just 35 percent on wide-open 3-pointers, which hit the fifth-lowest mark in the league on Monday, and just 33.9 percent on 3s overall, the fourth-lowest number in the NBA. In general, defenders don’t have much control over whether or not opponents score their 3-point points, especially the open ones, but so far this season the Lakers have benefited from the fact that they haven’t.
That’s not quite the reverse yet. The warriors shot only 12 out of 37 from the depths. But eight of those bombs came in the second half, which the Lakers lost by 18 points. Factor in their own 9-out-of-29 performance behind the arch and losing the Lakers looks pretty easy. The Warriors made their shots in the second half and the Lakers didn’t. If the Lakers had gone full throttle, they could possibly have collected the three points necessary to win the regular game. The Lakers have outperformed the odds so far this season but they can’t if they beat themselves.
4. The starters of Golden State start to falter again
The Warriors who fell behind at 7 p.m. was another page on a story Steve Kerr refuses to rewrite. The top five of Golden State, Curry, Green, Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr., were beaten by 45 points in Monday’s 126-minute game. Suffice it to say, these numbers don’t look any better now. By now, all six warrior reserves who had spoken had a positive point difference. Essentially, every lineup except the first five works for the warriors right now.
There is a simple solution here. Just replace Oubre with Damion Lee on the starting grid and give the top five the clearance they need to score and give the bench a little sportier. Yes, it could hurt the tremendous work of these backups, but Golden State can’t expect to break 19 point deficits every night. The best teams don’t rely on massive comebacks, they don’t need them in the first place. So far, Kerr doesn’t seem to agree, and Monday has likely reiterated his decision to stick with the same opening group.