The Lakers had four days rest before Game 1, which let Darvin Ham keep his bench short and lean heavily on his starters — Anthony Davis and LeBron James both played more than 40 minutes.
And the Lakers needed every one of them — they got the 117-112 win over the Warriors at the Chase Center to take a 1-0 series lead. It was a night when the Lakers showed tremendous game-plan discipline and it got them a W.
Here are three takeaways from Game 1.
1) That is the Anthony Davis the Lakers need
It was our No.1 thing to watch this series: Anthony Davis has to be the best player on the floor for the Lakers to have a chance.
He was — 30 points, 23 rebounds, five blocks and a dominant performance.
AD DROPS 30-20 IN GAME 1 🤯
Lakers take the 1-0 series lead ‼️#NBAPlayoffs presented by Google Pixel pic.twitter.com/T1qnAXsOC2
— NBA (@NBA) May 3, 2023
The Warriors wanted to single-cover Davis with Kevon Looney, but AD shot 8-of-12 with Looney as the primary defender, according to ESPN stats and Info. But Davis’ defensive impact may have been greater — the Warriors shot 4-of-17 with Davis as the primary defender.
The one concern: Davis played 44 minutes including the entire second half. Darvin Ham could lean on Davis and the rest of the Lakers’ core because they had four days off coming into the game, but this series is every other day the rest of the way. Can Davis keep his legs under him playing heavy minutes and with this load every other night?
The Lakers are betting he can, they need him to be the best player on the floor for at least three more games.
2) Lakers paint points, free throws beat Warriors 3s
The Lakers won the math game.
The Warriors were banking on 3>2 winning them this game. They launched and made way more 3-pointers, shooting 21-of-53 to the Lakers 6-of-25. The Warriors scored 45 more points from beyond the arc.
The Lakers played their game. Los Angeles won the points in the paint 54-28, and the real backbreaker was the Lakers going 25-of-29 from the free throw line to 5-of-6 from the Warriors. That’s 20 more points from the stripe. That is not about the officiating, that was about the Lakers aggressively attacking inside and the Warriors launching 3s and not looking to draw fouls the same way.
The Lakers made a conscious decision in this game (and likely this series) — they weren’t going to chase the Warriors around screens and get into scramble mode on defense. Instead, they were going to pull back, choke off the paint (and with it finishes at the rim), own the glass, get back in transition adorn don’t let the Warriors run.
It worked. And the Lakers are up 1-0.
“Morale is not low,” Klay Thompson said of the Warriors after the loss. “We know we let one slip away. Got to look at film and see how we can attack them better.”
3) Stephen Curry got rolling in the fourth quarter, but Warriors defense wasn’t there
By the end of the third quarter, Stephen Curry had 13 points — and he scored 10 of those in the first quarter. He was quiet.
Then came the fourth, when Curry scored 14 and tried to put the team on his back, but it was too late. When the game was on the line, the Lakers doubled Curry to get the ball out of his hands and dared any other Warrior to beat them — and Jordan Poole couldn’t make that shot.
JP had a chance to tie the game with 10 seconds left … pic.twitter.com/IE5RRbYjcg
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 3, 2023
Curry ended the night with 27 points on 10-of-24 shooting. Klay Thompson added 25. It was a solid outing for Curry and the Splash Brothers — the Warriors went on one of their patented 14-0 runs, but it wasn’t enough.
Because they couldn’t get stops.
What fueled the four rings Curry/Thompson/Green wear was this was an elite defensive team that had historic shooters on offense — we too often focus on those shots and how they changed the game and not the other end of the floor. The Warriors won a ring last year and had the best regular-season defense in the league — it’s not a coincidence. This season’s Warriors were 17th. It’s not that the Lakers 117.2 offensive rating for the game (using Cleaning the Glass’ numbers) was off the charts, it would have been sixth in the league for the season, but the Warriors’ defense wasn’t elite — on Davis or other Lakers — and the offense couldn’t cover it up for a night.
If the Warriors are going to come back and win this series, it will be with defense. Not more Curry.