For a moment, it looked like the Los Angeles Lakers found the right formula to put their season back on track. But that was only a mirage, and the losing crept back to their recognized pace, despite a healthy and scoring Kobe Bryant. The Golden State Warriors have their own issues and standings to worry about, and Stephen Curry made sure they kept their distance from the biggest disappointment in the NBA.
Curry led the Warriors to their first win over the Lakers this season with 25 points, despite playing on a bad ankle. Some players don’t need the entire NBA media to praise just how well they’re playing or inspiring others when they play injured, which seems to happen a lot during a career to raise some suspicions to the injury(ies) authenticity. Kobe Bryant was out, then back, being brave. He had a 11-27 shooting night, scoring 36 points on a terrible night from beyond the arc (2-10), as the usual defensive problems and other known worries crept back to haunt them.
Curry wasn’t the only hot hand for the Warriors – David Lee enjoyed the space and bad defensive outlook of the entire Lakers team to pour on the points, finishing with 23 and 12 rebounds. Klay Thompson was the perfect sharpshooter which he usually is, hitting six from three, finishing with 22 points, as the Warriors beat the Lakers 109-103; Golden State are still sixth in the West, a game above Houston and 4.5 above the Lakers. For LA, who heard about Utah winning their game and stopping a four game slide, it’s now only one game above the Jazz.
People will once again question Mike D’Antoni for plugging Pau Gasol back in the lineup. If you remember, before his latest injury, he was relegated to a bench role, as to minimize the damage the system of playing two bigs was causing to both him and Howard. Back as a starter for two games, Gasol has seen the Lakers lose twice (three in a row in general), averaging 5.5 points while shooting 5-18 from the field. Despite playing badly, it doesn’t stop him from not trying to score, even when it’s not his kind of shot. The overload of “stars” for the Lakers hurt the man they should be worried about the most – Dwight Howard, taking only 8 shots, finishing with 11 points.
We are the better basketball team. They are in the rear view mirror and I have not checked it and I will not.
It’s been quite a while since anyone involved with the Golden State Warriors had the privilege of saying that about their division rivals, but it’s more than just the record this season. The Warriors aren’t a quick fix, but a process that took a few years to turn into the right direction, getting rid of the right parts, while adding a few key ones along. Andre Bogut isn’t an offensive force, never was. But he brings them some kind of defensive identity never really associated with the Warriors.
As for the Lakers? Same old excuses, same old explanations. From Bryant, from D’Antoni, from everyone. Nothing’s really changed, despite a season that seems as long as a voyage around the world. Bad defense, an offense that’s mostly about ego and not passing, and too many unhappy faces. They still might make the playoffs, but it’s hard to see this season ending in nothing but a loss and the word failure next to their record on anyone’s checklist.