The Lakers looked like the better team throughout the first half, but with LeBron James not playing during the second half and Anthony Davis ending his night early in the third quarter, the Golden State Warriors’ deep bench was able to pull away and beat Los Angeles’ own reserves, 129-125.
James returned after missing Wednesday's game, playing only in the first half and ending the night with 12 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds. Davis also returned to the floor and had 13 points and went 1-2 from three; that’s four attempts shorter than the six head coach Darvin Ham wants to see from his star big, but making half of them is still nice.
L.A. is now 2-2 in preseason play and will face the Giannis Antetokounmpo/Damian Lillard-led Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday in that duo’s debut.
The Lakers rolled out the same starting five they had the last time Davis and James played, featuring the two stars alongside Austin Reaves, D'Angelo Russell and Taurean Prince. This group went back and forth with the Warriors, with every starter scoring during their opening minutes of play.
30 seconds into the Lakers opening up in Crypto for the ‘season’— ⁶ (@SpeakContext) October 14, 2023
this is going to be a fun year. pic.twitter.com/piEUbQ6WNM
The Lakers then subbed in Rui Hachimura, Max Christie and Christian Wood and went on an 11-0 run to gain the lead. This unit had excellent 3-point shooting, and with a big like Wood rolling to the basket, it was a perfect balance of an inside-outside game. L.A. ended the first quarter hitting nine 3-pointers at a 60% average, unheard-of numbers for any recent Lakers team.
Steph Curry did Steph Curry things throughout the first, scoring 12 points on 4-6 shooting, but the Lakers countered every burst of scoring from Golden State with a flurry of their own. L.A. had nine players score a basket and three in double figures, taking a 70-63 lead into the second half.
James ended his night there, but the rest of the Lakers starters saw action in the third quarter. Golden State got off to a 10-3 start and after a technical foul called on Davis following some frustration when he felt the refs missed a call, the score was tied at 73.
Prince responded with back-to-back threes and a running jumper shortly after to help the Lakers regain their lead. After a rough first game, Prince has made a great case to be the Lakers' fifth starter.
Davis was done playing with six minutes left in the third, and with both teams relying on bench units and potential G-Leaguers, the scoring ramped up and the Warriors closed out the third strong, going on an 11-0 run to retake the lead temporarily. A tough finish inside by Christian Wood, however, kept the game even at 100 entering the fourth.
The final quarter was mainly end-of-bench players and players simply fighting for an NBA job, so there wasn’t much to take away long-term, but the young Lakers fought valiantly with D’Moi Hodge hitting a key three, Colin Castleton swatting a couple of shots and Maxwell Lewis throwing a beautiful lob which Alex Fudge slammed home.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough. The Warriors squeaked out the win in the closing seconds with a tip-in by Trayce Jackson-Davis and converting on their free throw attempts. L.A. had one more shot to tie the game, but Hodge missed the three and that sealed the Lakers' fate.
The results aren’t important in the preseason, but seeing your core play well and leave healthy is. The Lakers succeeded on both counts.
Bron and AD were Bron and AD, Reaves shot well and had a couple of highlights on Curry — which is becoming a common occurrence — and Prince looks like the favorite to start with the purple and gold after another productive night.
Now the Lakers will play the Bucks on Sunday in their penultimate preseason game. The matchup can be watched nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.