Warriors adjustments pay off in Lakers Game 2

Kendra AndrewsESPNMay 5, 2023, 3:16 a.m. ET5 minute read

SAN FRANCISCO — Ahead of Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Warriors coach Steve Kerr sat on the podium during his press conference pre-match, praising his confidence in his team.

After a Game 1 loss, Kerr said he believed in the Warriors’ ability to make the right adjustments and bounce back.

Golden State followed their coach’s words and overwhelmingly beat the Lakers 127-100 to even the series at one game apiece.

The Warriors’ major adjustment in Game 2 was getting small, dropping Kevon Looney from the starting lineup and replacing him with JaMychal Green.

Green as Looney’s replacement came as a surprise, but the Warriors accomplished what they set out to do – come out in transition and pick up the pace.

“He uses our strengths to our advantage,” Warriors goaltender Stephen Curry said. “You have to give something up. So as long as we’re decisive and our floor is spaced correctly, we can usually find a good shot and then you just have to knock them down.”

Starting Green was a decision made for two reasons: the first was to keep the spacing on the ground by having more than one shooter in the lineup. The other was to keep a bit bigger body on the floor to fight the size of the Lakers, instead of another guard like Jordan Poole or Donte DiVincenzo – two players the Warriors often go to when they start small .

“With Loon not on the roster, we knew we needed a dog, and he stood up for us in a big way,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.

Added Lakers forward LeBron James: “JaMychal gave them a lot of time. That 12 minutes felt like 24 minutes, 30 minutes. He was also a great moment for their team in the starting role tonight.”

Draymond Green said it was the Warriors’ defense that fueled their offense — a mainstay of Golden State’s mentality over the past decade.

And the Warriors leaned heavily on Draymond Green as their “big man” for much of that defense. After his performance in Game 1, which he called “disgusting”, Green was given the daunting task of being Anthony Davis’ main defender. With Green as the primary defenseman in Game 2, Davis went 4 of 8 from the floor and averaged 0.89 points per game. In Game 1, Davis shot 8 of 12 against Looney, who took the primary mission .

Draymond Green finished just two assists from a triple-double, collecting 11 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists.

Perhaps the biggest sign of the Warriors improving defense was at the free throw line. A game after Los Angeles attempted 29 free throws — 24 more than Golden State — the Lakers took just 17, making 10 of them.

“We met strength with strength,” Draymond Green said. “We fouls so many last game and we were on the free throw line and it seemed like every play. It’s tough. They’re a great defensive team. You play against that defense every time on the floor just waiting for you to go down is a lot harder to score in. I think our defense led to a better offense for us.

Golden State also went 21 of 42 from 3, compared to the Lakers’ 10 of 34 shooting from range. The Warriors have 42 3-pointers so far in this series — 26 more than the Lakers — the most over a two-game span in Warriors playoff history and tied for second most over a span. two games in NBA playoff history.

The remaining 26 3-pointers the Warriors have over the Lakers are tied for third-best 3-point differential in two games in any playoff series.

Klay Thompson scored 30 points — including 14 in the third quarter — on 11 of 18 shooting, including 8 of 11 on 3. Thompson now leads the NBA in postseason games with at least seven 3-pointers. with 12.

“These are times you work for,” Thompson said. “Those short moments of euphoria and that state of flux where you feel like you can’t miss, makes all those hard days worth it. I was just trying to get the crowd moving, and that’s always fun when you shoot the ball Good.”

Meanwhile, as Curry navigated through foul issues, he stepped back to score and instead took on a more traditional point guard role through play.

He recorded eight playoff assists in the first half before totaling 12 on the night, the most he had in a playoff game since 2015.

During the Warriors’ 8-0 run in the first three minutes of the second quarter – a streak that included a line-up of Andrew Wiggins, Thompson, DiVincenzo, Curry and Looney – all of Golden State’s buckets were assisted by Curry .

“I’m able to play in different ways,” Curry said. “As long as we’re just creating open shots, it doesn’t matter who takes them – and obviously tonight I didn’t have many for a reason – make the right decision. The ball finds the right person, and good things happen .”

Curry was double teamed on 10 plays in Game 2. Of those plays, the Warriors shot 6 of 9, including 4 of 6 assists from Curry.

It was also only the second time in Curry’s playoff career that he had as many or more assists than field goal attempts in a game, as he scored 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting.

Laying down the ground and beating Los Angeles with a 3-point shot and ball movement has always been part of Golden State’s game plan for this series. And after the Warriors lost in Game 1, they knew they had to make the right adjustments to get there.

It’s similar to how they sailed in their first-round series against the Sacramento Kings.

“They’re still trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube every game, and it starts in a different place,” Curry said. “And that’s the beauty of basketball and the way you see it. I love that part of the game.”

As the series heads to Los Angeles, Curry knows the Lakers, who still claim to have the best defense in the league, will make whatever adjustments they deem necessary to get the Warriors off their stride.

“We found some success there and then (the Kings) tried to respond to that and we got it,” Curry said. “So I guess it will happen with LA, same kind of vibe, but we’ll have an answer for all of that.”

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