The Los Angeles Lakers won Game 1 of their conference semi-finals series against the Golden State Warriors, 117-112. The game was a nail-biter throughout, but it was the Lakers that ultimately won in the end after surviving a 14-0 Warriors run that concluded with a Stephen Curry 3-pointer to tie it 112-112 with 1:38 remaining.
The Lakers have now re-taken home-court advantage in the series, but before they go back to a raucous Crypto.com Arena crowd, they have Game 2 to take care of in The Bay.
What will change in Game 2, and who will receive the advantages from the changes?
Must win for Warriors?
Heading into Game 1, although many were considering this a toss-up of a series (other than the ESPN staff), there were areas in which it was obvious that one team would have a heavy advantage in when compared to their opponent.
There was no question that the Warriors would be out-shooting the Lakers from deep in this series. There was also no question that the Lakers would be winning the battle at the free throw line, given their determination to get shot attempts in the paint as well as having arguably the best paint-deterrent in Anthony Davis on the other side.
Speaking of Davis, there was no question that he’d be continuing his debilitating defense from the previous series while there was also no question that Stephen Curry would have to be defended with 110% effort from the Lakers’ guards if they were to be able to limit him to a modest 30-ish points per game over the series.
These advantages evidenced themselves right away in Game 1, and in drastic fashion. The Warriors made 21 3-pointers to the Lakers’ 6 while the Lakers had 29 free-throw attempts to the Warriors’ 6.
Davis secured 4 more blocks to add to his staggering total in these playoffs as he’s averaged 4.2 blocks per game so far. Davis’s presence resulted in the Warriors making only 40% of their 35 attempts in the paint.
As for Curry, Jarred Vanderbilt was making things difficult for him early and often, showing nearly no physical or mental lapses in the game while guarding him. I say that, and Curry still scored 27 points including 6 made 3-pointers.
Other than those areas of the game, most of everything else came with some uncertainty when evaluating the series. Some of those uncertain areas showed great promise for each side after Game 1.
Jordan Poole had a pretty bad first round series against the Kings, but – not including the questionable long-distance 3-point shot he had in the closing moments that would have tied the game – he had a great Game 1 scoring 21 points on 15 field goal attempts. The Lakers’ bench was huge in the game, spearheaded by Dennis Schröder who dropped 19 points in Game 1 while also adequately supporting Jarred Vanderbilt in his Curry assignment. Schröder had scored only 28 combined points in the 6 games of the Lakers’ first round series vs. the Grizzlies.
Of course, there’s never been a playoff series in NBA history where basically the same things happened every game. There are sure to be different in some way in Game 2, with those differences likely being triggered by desperation on the Warriors’ side. 1 loss at home would be disappointing, but 2 would be an utter failure and a probable ticket toward this postseason finishing much earlier than their championship run did last season.
Will the Warriors play smaller? They did in the 14-0 run in the 4th quarter, but that small-ball style meant no Kevon Looney — who was just as impactful on the boards as he was for the entirety of the series they had against the Kings, grabbing 23 rebounds.
Will the Warriors switch more on defense? This swarming defensive style may catch the Lakers by surprise, however, they also seem prepared to beat that type of defense with the on-ball creators flanking LeBron James in Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, and Rui Hachimura to name a few.
We’ll see what changes are made, but there’s no doubt that the Warriors are going to put up a fight. It will be tough for the Lakers to match the intensity of that desperation, but if they’re up for it and they want to get a little greedy as they did often towards the end of the regular season... they could end up bringing a commanding series lead back home to L.A.
Notes and Updates
- Not much changing with the Lakers’ injury report, although Mo Bamba (left ankle soreness) is now listed as questionable. Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) and LeBron James (right foot soreness) are probable.
- The Warriors will again be without Andre Iguodala (left wrist surgery) and Ryan Rollins (right foot surgery). Patrick Baldwin Jr. (left toe soreness) is questionable.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 6 p.m. PT. The game will be exclusively shown on ESPN.
You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.