The play-in game between the Warriors and Lakers was the stuff of legends. It was another classic battle between LeBron James and Steph Curry, and this time King James came up on top.
It wasn’t easy at all, though, as the Warriors led for the whole game until there were 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. They hustled, made big shots, and rode a big night performance from Curry and came up just short of a victory.
The last few minutes felt like an NBA Finals game. After the Lakers finally got a run going to grab a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Warriors bounced back and found themselves with a three point lead with 3:08 left in the game. Both teams struggled to get a basket for a while, and when the Lakers pulled it back to 98-98 with 2:07 left, the two teams traded to push the score to 100-100 with a 1:23 left on the clock.
Then, as we’ve seen so many times in his career, LeBron hit an unbelievable 34-foot three pointer as the clock expired to push the Laker lead to 103-100 with 58.2 seconds left. Those were the last points of the game, and added another highlight to James’ deep pool legendary moments.
The funny thing is that shot was exactly what the Warriors would have wanted to be taken, too. They played great defense on the Lakers for the entire possession, and denied Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a decent shot at the rim. Caldwell-Pope was forced to make a desperate pass out to James, who had no choice but to take the long bomb as time expired.
It was another example of how a near-perfect defensive possession can be ruined by a legend. It wasn’t a desperate heave either, as LeBron managed to set his feet, take aim, and splash it. It was a poetic moment, too, considering that Steph Curry was the one who was forced to try to close the distance and bother his shot. James didn’t particularly shoot well for the game (7 of 17), but he made the biggest shot during the biggest moment.
James finished with a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a block. Anthony Davis wasn’t a slouch either, as he finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.
Curry had 37 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Warriors. Andrew Wiggins chipped in 21 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
As much as the game was about superstars, it was also pleasing from a pure basketball perspective. The Warriors used great defense and good ball movement throughout the first half to grab multiple double-digit leads, but the Lakers hunkered down in the second half and started to be the ones to force turnovers and tough shots.
This game was an instant classic, and it’s further reinforced my feeling that the play-ins are a great addition to the NBA. You’re not always going to get LeBron vs. Steph in the play-ins, but the added layer of tension for teams to finish in the top six will be good in the long-term.
I’m still in jitters after the game. Now I can’t wait to see who wins the play-in battle between the Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. The playoffs haven’t even officially started yet and I’m already having an immensely fun time. That Suns vs. Lakers series is going to be a sick one, too.