In a bizarre turn of events that is seeing me type something I never expected to, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. This is not a typo, nor is it a cruel joke I am playing on our readers.
No, the Lakers beat the Warriors – blew them out, even – in what may go down as the greatest regular season upset in NBA history. And yes, free tacos were had by the Lakers faithful as the home team held on for the 112-95 win.
It is fair to say there is not a whole lot to take away from this game. The Warriors were clearly out of sorts and speculation about how they spent Saturday night in Los Angeles ran rampant as it became clear they were about to lose to one of the worst teams in the league. The sharpshooting Dubs were a hilariously bad 4-30 from behind the three point line on Sunday. Their 20 turnovers (compared to the Lakers’ 13) was perhaps the biggest key in the loss. Even nearly undefeatable MVP Steph Curry struggled, taking 20 shots to accumulate his 18 points.
Yet despite the noticeable sloppiness and struggles from the Dubs, the Lakers deserve plenty of credit as well. In a team-oriented game that saw Los Angeles giving their best effort of the season, nearly every Laker shined at various moments.
The young Lakers especially showed their potential with strong games from each of the four who played. Rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell took over the game early – including hitting two threes in succession – helping the Lakers to a lead at the end of the first quarter which was never given back. Russell finished with 21 points in 32 minutes, while adding five assists, three rebounds, and four steals.
His backcourt partner Jordan Clarkson did most of his damage in the second half, often scoring at will to keep the lead. Clarkson finished with 25 points on 10-21 shooting and went 4-6 from three, helping D’Angelo in replicating the Lakers’ version of the Warriors’ Splash Brothers backcourt.
Sophomore power forward Julius Randle continued his dominance on the boards and added several tough baskets. He was able to record another double-double 12 points and 14 rebounds and even added two beautiful assists, showing signs of improvement in his playmaking.
Finally, Larry Nance, Jr. did what he does best: hustle endlessly and jump really high. The rookie had two rim-shaking dunks to get the crowd energized. Nance put up stats across the board with four points, two rebounds, one assist, and two steals in only 19 minutes – numbers that do not pop off the page but also do not represent the impact he had on the game.
The Lakers additionally received a huge game from the forgotten rookie Marcelo Huertas. Playing against fellow Brazilian players Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao, Huertas put on a show, the likes of which we have not seen since the opposing team was Maccabi Haifa. The veteran rookie scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting and dished out nine dimes, nearly achieving his first double-double.
Los Angeles also received contributions from its veterans. Nick Young notched an efficient 13 points off the bench and added some rebounding, assisting, and defense. Brandon Bass, as he has often done, provided energy and a little bit of everything else with 13 and 7 in only 27 minutes. Even Roy Hibbert looked active, especially on the defensive end, as he protected the rim on multiple occasions and stepped out on the perimeter to help contain Steph Curry on others.
Finally, Kobe Bryant attempted to make contributions in his final game against the Warriors despite nursing a sore shoulder that is clearly bother him. While he did not have a great game by any means, Kobe was able to mostly stay out of the way and make the easy plays when they were given to him. Bryant scored 12 points (on 14 shots) and added three assists and two rebounds in his 25 minutes. The numbers were not great for the Mamba but his presence was felt as he was tied for the team-high with a plus-minus rating of +16.
This win may not mean much for this season, but it was a glimpse at a hopefully brighter future. Fans (including the once again present Jack Nicholson) were treated to a show from four of the Lakers youngsters who attempted to replicate Showtime in their upset victory. If nothing else, this game can be a confidence booster for a young team desperately in need of it. It is also a confidence booster for fans who are witnessing the growth of the next core of Lakers’ stars.