LA Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors: Postgame Grades and Analysis for LA
The Los Angeles Lakers paid a visit to Oracle Arena Saturday night, and their matchup with the Golden State Warriors proved to be one of the most exciting contests of the entire 2012-13 season. Steve Nash made his long-awaited return to the starting lineup, and the Lakers took down the home squad, 118-115, in overtime.
L.A. came out in this game with great energy, but the Warriors weren’t afraid to play at an equally frantic pace. Both teams were playing sloppy basketball early, but it was Los Angeles that was able to capitalize with 15 points off of turnovers in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to grasp momentum out of the gate because of self-inflected wounds, but Golden State was able to get the crowd involved just a few minutes into the second period. Los Angeles began turning the ball over, it couldn’t stop the Warriors in transition and the home team outscored the Lakers by 12 in the quarter.
The second half began with the Lakers down eight points, and while Golden State increased its lead early, the hustle and effort from Kobe Bryant helped keep this game within reach. The problem is that nobody else seemed capable of stepping up at that point, and the team trailed 87-74 heading into the final period.
L.A. hadn’t played a game since Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, and that kind of rest is what helped them get back in this game. With Bryant on the bench, the team moved the ball well, found open shots and officially made this a battle late. Upon Bryant’s return to the floor, the Lakers took a one-point lead with just under four minutes to go, and the game would ultimately go to extra time following a number of clutch buckets both ways.
In overtime, no one team ever established momentum. The pace was fast, emotions were high and each group wanted this one as badly as the other. It came down to who could execute on the final possession, and it was the Lakers who got the final stop.
Los Angeles has now won four straight, and it's officially time to prepare for the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
USA TODAY Sports
Steve Nash finally returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors, and while he didn’t look like the fast-paced blur of a point guard we’ve come to expect, L.A fans have to be encouraged from what they saw.
It was clear in this one that the floor general didn’t play at full speed, but speed isn’t what puts points on the scoreboard. His shot looked good, and he did a solid job of getting Pau Gasol looks at the rim.
Nash may have been guilty of conserving energy in this one, but his pick-and-roll game helped slow down the pace when things were going the Warriors’ way. He was making plays, and that's something that L.A. needs more of.
The problem, as we’ve come to expect, came on the defensive end of the floor. Nash was matched up against Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack in the first half, and both guards made life extremely difficult for the 38-year-old.
In his return, Nash finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and he also had nine assists and two steals.
Shooting Guard: Darius Morris
Harry How/Getty Images
Darius Morris earned the starting nod in this one as a result of Mike D’Antoni’s new lineup, but he was a non-factor most of the way.
Despite being named a starter, Morris saw just nine minutes in Saturday’s contest and he finished with six points on 3-of-7 shooting.
What you'd like to see out of Morris in this kind of game is aggression, and that's exactly what he showed when he was given the chance. He moved well without the ball, he was willing to attack the rim and he always attracts defenses from deep range even when his shot isn't falling.
If you're a Morris fan, you love to see him getting the chance to be a starter, but don't expect him to shine among the stars as the season progresses.
Small Forward: Kobe Bryant
USA TODAY Sports
In the midst of Nash's return to the starting lineup, Bryant made it clear that he was going to take the shots. The 34-year-old veteran took 10 shots in the first quarter, but the problem is that he only managed to make three of them.
By the time the first half ended, Bryant had already taken 17 shots. He was playing a lot of isolation basketball, and as a result, he had only made five of his attempts.
Despite an ugly first half, you knew that the superstar wasn't going to hold back. He finished the game with 34 points on 16-of-41 shooting, and while his isolation game became more effective in the third period, it wasn't until he sat on the bench that the Lakers put together a 10-0 run in the middle of the fourth period.
The Lakers may have made a run with Bryant on the bench, but without him in the game late, who would the team have turned to in times of need? The superstar took over when the Lakers needed it most, and while we saw his high-volume scoring in both a positive and negative light, he finished with 10 rebounds, five assists and the outcome of this game looks much different without his clutch shooting.
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
If one game is any indication, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have the potential to be a deadly combo in both pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets. The seven-footer seemed to be in the right place at the right time whenever Nash looked his way, and the two of them connected on a number of looks going at the rim and out on the perimeter.
Despite having a point guard who could get him the ball, Gasol remained inefficient. He did a good job of passing the ball in the half-court offense, and he was able to pull down 10 rebounds, but his shot was inconsistent.
Gasol finished the game with nine points on just 4-of-11 shooting.
Defensively, Gasol struggled immensely to slow down David Lee. The two of them weren't matched up the entire game, but when they were, the Warriors' big man had the advantage every time.
Center: Dwight Howard
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Dwight Howard couldn’t get a call to save his life to begin this contest, but he was also guilty of letting his frustrations get the best of him. He picked up two fouls and a technical in the first half of the first quarter, and he was visibly bothered by the double-teams that came his way.
Offensively, Howard was never able to get comfortable. He couldn’t score with his back to the basket, he couldn’t score driving at the rim and he finished the game with just 11 points and six rebounds.
On the defensive end, Howard picked up his third personal foul before the seven-minute mark in the second quarter, and he remained in foul trouble the entire way.
It’s easy to say that Howard was never given a chance to warm up in this contest. He finally started to show some offensive prowess late, but even when he was on the floor, he didn’t have the impact you want to see out of your superstar center.
The big man would go on to foul out in overtime, and he clearly didn't have the presence of mind to play with such foul trouble.
Sixth Man: Metta World Peace
USA TODAY Sports
Metta World Peace has had a solid year shooting the ball, and he kept that theme alive Saturday night.
The 33-year-old made his first four shots of the game, and he proved that he can help the team's second unit produce when he comes off the bench—something they've needed all season.
Defensively, he struggled to slow down David Lee when he was given the assignment, but he used his size and strength to help contain the Warriors' perimeter players.
The one thing you know you can expect from World Peace these days is energy. The guy seems to give it his all every time he's on the court, and luckily for L.A., his energy turned into production.
The third period saw World Peace slow down quite a bit in the production department, but his veteran grittiness remained until the end of the game. He had a clutch bucket late that helped send this one to overtime, and he finished with 20 points on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Lakers’ bench has been a hot topic this season for all the wrong reasons, but Saturday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors saw the team’s second unit step up.
With the new lineup in full effect, Metta World Peace was able to come in and provide an energy that hasn’t been there most of the year. It wasn't just World Peace, though, who had an impact, as Jordan Hill made his presence felt in just 21 minutes.
Hill finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds, and he was playing smart basketball, as he completed six of his nine shots.
Jodie Meeks played 33 minutes and also had a good showing. He scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and he had seven rebounds.
As Nash begins to take over the offense, the bench may see less from Meeks; but until then, the Lakers need to enjoy the solid performances while they've got them.