The Warriors played well, there’s no denying that. Despite shooting under 40% and being outshot at the line, they did just enough to fend off the Lakers’ championship squad. They crashed the boards with a vengeance (50-47), an absolute necessity against those behemoths they call Bynum and Gasol. Everyone was sharing the ball and, more importantly, there was a ton of activity off of it.
Unfortunately, a part of me feels the Lakers had this if they really wanted it. I’m not saying the Warriors didn’t earn it, but with it being a close contest throughout, Jackson was content to rest his starters for long stretches. Gasol and Artest didn’t even break the 30-minute mark while Kobe logged only 32. It was a great win by all means, and the Lakers reserves are hardly slouches themselves, but it’s tough to gauge with the starters being held back a bit.
Pessimism aside, this win marks the end of 12-game win streak the Lakers had against the Warriors. It now makes three straight wins over quality playoff teams, a fantastic sign that the Warriors can really keep up. Like coach Keith Smart mentioned, it’s the progress and identity they’re trying to establish during this waning part of the season. The Warriors know they can put the ball in the hoop, but getting stops is a problem that has long plagued this franchise. If this defense, holding the last three opponents under 100, is the turning of a new leaf, we’re all for it.
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1st Star: David Lee
Lee was unquestionably the top player of the night with the way he kept the Warriors afloat during the 1st and made incredible plays throughout while still having to mix it up with the best frontcourt in the league. He’s got a playoff mentality and I suspect it’s slowly catching on. 22 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four steals, and a monster block on Kobe (shown above). I hope a tooth never finds a way into his elbow ever again.
2nd Star: Monta Ellis
He took a lot of heat-check threes, but that’s something we have to live with here in the bay. When he wasn’t taking threes? Simply unstoppable. The way Monta controls so many angles offensively is really a stunning, almost underrated aspect of his game. We know he’s fast and can finish around the rim, but he’s so much more than that. Everything from the path he takes to the basket, to the balance of his body, and the intricate angles of the ball that avoids futile swats are all carefully calculated like an offensive mastermind. I kid, the dude makes this up on the fly and he’s absolutely one of the best in the game. His chemistry with Lee is growing which should make him realize he can trust all his teammates and not just Steph and David. 26 points and six assists for the shameless shooter. Seriously, stop taking threes.
3rd Star: Stephen Curry
Only 68 points for these three tonight with Curry putting in 20, but it was enough to overcome the slumping Lakers. His shot was off, much like it was against the Grizzlies on the last back-to-back, but he stuck with it to score nine in the final quarter. He should’ve destroyed Fisher, but the win is having me feel a bit generous. Six rebounds and five assists to go with the 20 for the superstar sophomore.
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Dorell Wright: He finally broke Jason Richardson’s franchise record of threes in a season by hitting one, and adding one more for good measure. Well deserved for a player who managed to keep up his efficiency despite nearly doubling his previous high for minutes in a season. He was cold for the third straight game, but maybe that’s the key to winning?
Lou Amundson: Still doing work. Did you guys see him wrestle that ball away from Gasol? I dub thee Lou, Taker of Candy from Babies.
Kobe Bean Bryant: Kobe in Kobe Mode has worse shot selection than Monta in Monta Mode. You win, Kobe. You win.
Bynum & Gasol: Combined they went 12-16 from the floor with 31 points and 24 rebounds. I’m glad Kobe Mode exists. You win again.
Lamar Odom: I thought he’d be a huge matchup problem like Marion was, but Amundson and the rest of the Warriors played him well. Odom is easily frustrated, so they simply crowded and bothered him into oblivion.
The More You Know: The Warriors are now 18-4 when holding their opponents under 100. Defense truly turns into offense and especially with the way the Warriors operate. The Warriors, at least lately, have been trying to stuff the paint more and getting their opponents to become a jump-shooting team which leads to long rebounds and fast breaks for Steph and Monta. Additionally, their transition game is sparked by Udoh blocking shots and Lee manning the outlet passes. All of this combined with their ability to force turnovers and you have a squad that truly epitomizes this defense-to-offense philosophy.
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Three days until the home stretch which kicks off with a home game against Sacramento on Sunday in the first of three games in four nights. Rest is welcomed at this point, but a three-day layoff may put a bit of rust on the wheels. A solid day of rest followed by some intense practices should be enough to keep the gears turning for the Warriors. Let’s hope they can keep up the intensity against their friendly rivals from up north. 114-100 W’s!