NBA Play-in results: 3 takeaways from Lakers’ thrilling win over Warriors

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images /

The play-in game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors lived up to the hype. Here are three takeaways from the thrilling matchup.

Against all odds, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ highly anticipated matchup with the Golden State Warriors in Wednesday’s play-in game lived up to the hype. The Dubs were in front for most of the night, but LeBron James and Anthony Davis would not be denied, taking over down the stretch to ensure the Lakers locked up the 7-seed in the Western Conference.

It was a back-and-forth, hard-fought contest between two teams with championship experience looking to carve out their playoff spot. James racked up a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and Anthony Davis notched a team-high 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Stephen Curry led the Dubs with 37 points and 7 boards on 12-of-23 shooting.

The defending champs will advance to take on the 2-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Golden State will face the Memphis Grizzlies in a do-or-die play-in game for the 8-seed … and the right to square off with the top-seeded Utah Jazz.

But before we move ahead to the postseason, it’s only right we take a look at three big takeaways from this instant classic.

3. Turnovers sank the Warriors’ great effort

The Warriors played one hell of a game. They led for most of the night, built up a couple of double-digit leads and did everything right defensively for the majority of the contest. They limited the Lakers’ Big 3 of LeBron, AD and Dennis Schroder to 4-of-28 shooting in the first half, and even after the Lakers stormed back, they had a legitimate chance to win.

Unfortunately, they committed eight of their 20 turnovers in the third quarter and 14 in the second half overall, opening the door to an LA comeback. The defending champs jumped all over Golden State’s self-inflicted wounds and won the quarter 35-21, pulling within two points heading into the final frame and completely changing the complexion of the game.

From there it was an absolute dogfight between two top-five defenses, and LeBron’s ridiculous 3 late in the shot clock proved to be the game-winner. But it should never have come to that, and as the Warriors head into a do-or-die play-in game against the Grizz, they’ll be regretting that sloppy third quarter.

2. LeBron comes up big, as expected

Say what you want about LeBron’s overreaction to that hard Draymond Green foul — yes, he got hit in the face, but the rolling around in pain like he had just been grazed by a truck was, in fact, an overreaction! — but the King is the King for a reason: He shows up in big-time moments, and he did it again Wednesday night.

With the score tied and the shot clock winding down, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drove, got cut off, possibly traveled, and found James 34 feet away from the basket. It didn’t matter, as James hoisted it up over a retreating Curry … and absolutely drilled it.

That triple put the Lakers up by 3 with 58 seconds left and ultimately proved to be the game-winner. It was a rough going for most of the night for the Lakers, but their best two players came up big late in those third and fourth quarters.

1. Despite the triple-double, LeBron James doesn’t look 100 percent … yet

James has long been seen as a sort of superhuman cyborg. He’s rarely been injured over the course of his 18-year NBA career, and even last season at age 35, he was an absurdly good (and durable) MVP candidate. A high ankle sprain limited him to only 45 regular-season games this year, including only four appearances over the last two months, so it’s not entirely surprising there was some rust.

But after watching him put up a 24-8-7 line against the Indiana Pacers and 25 points and 6 assists against the New Orleans Pelicans in his last two games of the season, people assumed the King was back to his supernatural ways. And for box score surfers, his final triple-double tally probably looked just fine.

But watching him move during that feel-out first half, it somewhat jarring when he lacked his usual burst of speed for most of the night.

At halftime, he only had 6 points on 1-of-7 shooting. By the end of the third quarter, he had 14 points, but it came on 4-of-11 shooting. Even as he picked the Warriors apart with his passing late in the game, there was really only one play all night where he showcased his trademark athleticism.

Either he’s still working off the rust, playing some minor ankle pain or not quite ready to fully trust his body again yet, but it’s somewhat worrisome for both Lakers fans and Suns fans alike that he’s not 100 percent yet — scary for LA because they’ll need him at full strength to take down a tough Phoenix squad, but also scary for LeBron’s next opponent, because this is what he’s capable of doing even when he’s not 100 percent.

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