In the NBA Playoffs, every Lakers loss feels like the worst ever. Maybe it’s because Lakers fans haven’t been on this stage in a while (except in 2020, when we were spoiled with a 21-5 championship run) but Thursday’s loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors felt like a huge blow. Not only was it a 27-point blowout, but it felt as if for one night, the Warriors had figured the Lakers out.
Oh, the highs and lows of a playoff series.
Sure, Los Angeles did its job by stealing home-court advantage in Game 1 — hence the lackluster effort in Game 2 — but Anthony Davis once again was a no-show on Thursday, similar to the previous series. Golden State won the transition, points in the paint, turnover and rebounding battles and shot 15 more threes than the Lakers. All of these were factors in the Warriors’ dominant victory and now, it’s up to the Lakers to respond in Southern California.
Similar to the last series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Game 3 is going to once again be a pivotal game for the purple and gold. It’s not just about maintaining home-court advantage — where the Lakers have been perfect in this Playoffs — but also responding back to the Warriors’ answers and counters from Game 2.
Here are two factors to look out for that will determine whether the Lakers can go up 2-1 or not:
Which version of AD are the Lakers going to get?
In game 1, AD had 30 points and 23 rebounds in large part because he dominated the paint, and it was Kevon Looney defending him for the most part. The Warriors countered in Game 2 by not only making Draymond Green (arguably Davis’ biggest Kryptonite) the primary defender of Davis, but also keeping AD out of the paint thanks to the Warriors moving JaMychal Green to the starting lineup to replace Looney. That helped open up more opportunities for the Warriors on offense.
It’s also worth noting that Davis’ 11-point night was because he was out of rhythm and missed shots he usually converts. He admitted it himself post-game. Now in Game 3, it’s going to be up to him and the coaching staff to counter how the Warriors made it uncomfortable for him in Game 2, and that’s one of the biggest keys that will dictate the game.
Anthony Davis said his shot diet didn't change from Game 2 vs. Game 1, he just missed them.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) May 5, 2023
Shot charts seems to confirm that as more or less a fact. Warriors made some of those shots more difficult, but they were roughly in the same spots
Sometimes it's a make or miss league. pic.twitter.com/FLnJaq4oL0
How will the Lakers’ defense respond?
When James was asked post-game about how he expects the Lakers to respond, he expressed confidence in the team’s defense — stating that he’s not worried about whether it can contain the Warriors’ offense or not. After all, the Lakers won Game 1 in large part because of their defense, as they did a good job top locking and utilizing AD’s incredible rim protection skills to contain Golden State’s pristine offense.
In Game 2, the Warriors countered by driving Davis out of the paint, which allowed the Warriors to secure offensive opportunities like back cuts, drives to the rim, and more spacing for kick-out three-point shots.
On the other side, the Laker's defense against Curry went from high drop and ball screens to hedging and trapping, which the best shooter in NBA history capitalized on by showcasing his passing skills (he had 12 assists) and letting Klay Thompson cook by scoring 30 points and shooting 11-18 from the field.
The Warriors also converted 50%(!) of their three-point shots, outrebounded the Lakers by 11, had six more second-chance points, won the transition battle by 10 points (17-7), and didn’t concede many free throws to the Lakers. The latter was a huge advantage for the Warriors, considering their season-long penchant for fouling. Overall, Game 2 was just all about the Warriors outworking the Lakers for the majority of the game.
This was such a beautiful play design from Steve Kerr to break the Lakers' defensive scheme.— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) May 5, 2023
Now for Game 3, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers counter. How do they find a way to keep Davis in the paint? Will they switch their coverages on Curry? Can AD have another breakout game while Draymond continues to be his primary defender? More importantly, will the Lakers respond similarly to how they did against the Grizzlies in Game 3?
We’ll get our answers on Saturday as the series shifts to Los Angeles.
Notes and updates
- Before we get to the injury report, one feel-good stat that’s worth pointing out is that the Lakers have won nine straight games when they’re in a playoff series that’s tied at 1-1. It’s currently the longest active streak in the NBA. This particular team also has a record of 8-1 following a loss since the trade deadline. The only back-to-back losses were the ones against the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, the second of which AD sat out due to load management.
- For the Lakers injury report, the team listed Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), LeBron James (right foot soreness) as probable.
- Mo Bamba (left ankle soreness) is questionable after missing the first two games.
- Meanwhile, 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.
- For news around the league, in case you missed it, the Milwaukee Bucks have fired Mike Budenholzer as their head coach. Budenholzer was at the helm for five years and was let go on Thursday, just a week after the No. 1-seeded Bucks lost to the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat in five games in the first round of the Playoffs.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 5:30 p.m. PT. on Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.