It came down to the final minutes on Monday night and thanks to Lonnie Walker’s 15-point outburst in the fourth quarter, the Lakers are now just one game away from a Western Conference Finals appearance.
According to the league’s tracking data, the Warriors made more passes than any other team this season. The first quarter revealed both the positives and downsides of this level of ball-movement. The team had three early turnovers but their offense still flowed well as they generated plenty of quality looks as they had eight assists on their nine made field goals.
On the Lakers’ end, any worries of a passive Anthony Davis game were put to rest immediately as the center was active on both sides of the ball. He was so locked in that he was visibly frustrated when he was sent to the bench for a breather at the 3:51 mark of the first quarter.
With the stakes being as high as they were, both teams were equally matched and L.A. held a slim one-point lead after one.
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Lakers can secure a 3-1 lead with a win in Game 4.
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With Davis playing so well in the series, Golden State continued their adjusting by putting Davis in more high pick-and-rolls this game in an attempt to take away his ability to protect the rim. It was a sound move, as the Warriors got a lot more looks going toward the cup.
Both sides ultimately struggled offensively throughout the first half but Davis and Steph Curry exchanged baskets to keep the score close heading into halftime.
The evenly matched affair continued in the third as both teams exchanged runs. Austin Reaves, who has struggled all series, hit a big corner three to cap off a 10-0 Lakers run. But the Warriors quickly responded with an 11-0 run of their own.
Midway through the quarter, Golden State began to pull away leading by as many as 12, but L.A. was able to trim the lead back down to seven thanks to Dennis Schröder’s activity on both ends.
The final 12 minutes were a perfect example of why there’s nothing better than playoff basketball.
We had an unexpected hero arrive in the form of Walker who scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers get back into it. Walker canned clutch bucket after clutch bucket down the stretch including a pair of free-throws to give the Lakes a three-point lead with just 15 seconds left.
After a Curry turnover with 1.7 seconds left, the Lakers inbounded the ball and held on to win.
While it was never easy, the Lakers’ formula for beating the Warriors is clear: win the rebounding battle, outscore them in the paint and don’t turn the ball over.
The Lakers have been on just enough of the right side of most of these keys to give them the 3-1 series lead with a chance to end it on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Lonnie “stay goddamn ready” Walker. Wow.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.