Before the Lakers took on the Golden State Warriors, head coach Frank Vogel made his latest promise that his group had turned the page. He didn’t quite channel his inner Mike D’Antoni and promise that a new season started now, but he did say that he hasn’t given up on this group. And he doesn’t think they’re ready to lay down, either.
“I think the story of this team is still to be told, and I sense that there is a fresh energy with the trade deadline passing,” Vogel said.
For most of the night against the Warriors, the Lakers showed it. After a disengaged loss to the Portland Trail Blazers where he took zero shots in the fourth quarter, Anthony Davis led the charge on defense, even if he probably could have been more aggressive in the fourth. On a night he became the leading combined playoff and regular season scorer in NBA history, LeBron James (26 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists) infused the team with enough offensive punch to keep pace, even if it was his late blunder that contributed to them coming up short.
Unfortunately, as has been the case for most of this season, the Lakers’ good moments weren’t quite frequent enough, as they fell 117-115 in a hard-fought defeat, but a defeat nonetheless.
This loss drops the team to 26-31.
LeBron James' streak of 25-plus point games is now at 22, which is the longest such streak of his career.— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) February 13, 2022
After only trailing 65-62 at halftime, the Lakers were behind for single-digits for most of the third before going up 96-95 on a tip-in from Talen Horton-Tucker early in the fourth frame.
From there, a chasedown block on Klay Thompson by Austin Reaves — who was huge in keeping L.A. in the game in the fourth quarter before finishing with 13 points — energized the Lakers, who went on a quick 9-3 run to pull ahead by 5.
The Warriors answered back with a run of their own, and the two teams traded baskets down the stretch in a scintillating shootout before multiple missed tip-ins by James and Davis were followed by a layup from Stephen Curry on the other end to give Golden State a three-point lead with less than a minute remaining. The Lakers had a chance to tie the game when Curry fouled James on a three two possessions later, but James missed his first free-throw, and the Lakers couldn’t get a good enough shot off of his intentional miss on the the third freebie, allowing Golden State to survive.
Klay Thompson's fourth quarter: 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Scored 33 in 30 minutes. Won the Warriors this game. They're 42-15.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 13, 2022
Also, since we have to give this disclaimer now: This was not Russell Westbrook’s fault. He wasn’t perfect defensively — and no one should be expecting good defense from him at this point — but he finished the night with 19 points on 7-13 shooting, plus 7 rebounds and 5 assists against just 1 turnover. And he did it all while looking much more committed to creating offensive opportunities for teammates out of post-ups, on lobs, and as a threat in the dunker spot down the stretch.
So, in short, he wasn’t the problem. If Davis plays with more grit down the stretch and James ever learned how to make free throws, we’re talking about how solid Westbrook looked in a win.
The Lakers will now have an extremely rare three days off to recover from this brutal defeat before their next game, which will come Wednesday at home against the Utah Jazz at home in their final game before the NBA All-Star break. We’re way past the point in the season for moral victories, but if the Lakers play with this level of fight down the stretch, they’re going to win more often than they have.
Even if that sounds like a broken record no one wants to hear on another night they came up painfully, brutally short.