LeBron James drilled a game-winning 34-foot three-pointer as the shot clock expired with just under one minute remaining in regulation to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 103-100 victory over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in the Western Conference play-in tournament.
L.A., which trailed by 13 points at halftime before engineering its second-half comeback, clinched a playoff berth with the win.
The Warriors had a couple chances to tie the game in response to James' bucket, but their last two possessions ended with a missed Jordan Poole three-pointer and a turnover off an inbounds pass.
James' triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) helped L.A. overcome a sluggish offensive first half (42 points) and withstand an excellent night from Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who shined with 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting (6-of-9 from three-point range).
Warriors PG Stephen Curry: 37 points, 7 rebounds
Warriors PF Draymond Green: 2 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals
Warriors F Andrew Wiggins: 21 points
Lakers F LeBron James: 22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists
Lakers F Anthony Davis: 25 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals
Lakers G Alex Caruso: 14 points, 3 steals
Lakers' Big 3 of James, Davis and Caruso Leads Lakers
The Lakers don't have a traditional Big Three a la the present-day Brooklyn Nets, the early-to-mid 2010s Miami Heat or the late-2000s Boston Celtics, but it felt that way in the second half Wednesday as James, Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso carried the Lakers to the finish line.
James did a little of everything as evidenced by his triple-double, but the onus was on him to put the ball in the bucket late.
With 2:07 remaining and the Lakers down 98-97, James drove toward the hoop but was fouled hard by Warriors forward Draymond Green. He later said he took a finger to the eye:
James stayed down for a bit and hit one of two free throws to tie the game.
The four-time NBA MVP stayed on the court and soon became the hero after a broken possession led to James needing to hoist up a desperation 34-footer as the shot clock expired. James drilled the jumper, and the Lakers held on for the win.
Davis came to life in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 25 points in that frame. He scored everywhere on the court, hitting a three-pointer, a long-range two, a pair of dunks, a layup and a pair of free throws.
None of those buckets were more timely than his slam with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. With the shot clock winding down, Caruso found a cutting and quick-thinking Davis, who put the ball home, giving the Lakers a 100-98 edge.
The Lakers don't win this game without Caruso, who played excellent two-way basketball on a night where starting point guard Dennis Schroder struggled significantly (3-of-14 shooting, minus-20). Caruso scored 14 points (including 12 on 5-of-5 first-half shooting) in addition to three steals.
He was excellent on defense, though, as Sam Vecenie of The Athletic noted:
His best defensive moment occurred at an opportune time. With the Warriors up 98-95, Caruso took a corner three-pointer that hit the side of the backboard and nothing else. Curry grabbed possession of the ball, but tough defense from Caruso led to a deflection off the Dubs floor general out of bounds. The Lakers then closed the game on an 8-2 run.
James is a four-time NBA MVP and four-time NBA champion, and Davis is an eight-time All-Star. Caruso may not be in their stratospheres as far as resumes go, but he, James and Davis were all sensational in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
Curry Puts on a Clinic
The Warriors may have come into this game as underdogs, but it didn't appear that way in the first half as Golden State came out and punched L.A. in the mouth en route to a 55-42 lead.
Naturally, Curry had a lot to do with that effort, scoring 15 first-half points, 10 of which came in the final six minutes before halftime.
Before that run, he got by Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma for a nifty reverse layup:
Curry started cooking late, hitting a step-back three and another long-range shot from beyond the arc over James:
He finished the first half with a buzzer-beating three over Caruso for the 13-point advantage:
The second half was not a great offensive showing for any Warrior outside Curry and Andrew Wiggins, who combined to score 34 of Golden State's 45 points.
Still, the Warriors nearly won anyway as Curry kept it going in the third:
The Lakers took the lead in the fourth and held on to it for much of the final 12 minutes, but Curry kept the Warriors alive, scoring 11 more points, including this layup to cut the Warriors' deficit to two:
He later crossed up Schroder and skied to the hoop for a layup and a late 98-95 edge.
The James-Davis-Caruso trio took care of business from that point forward, but the Warriors still posted a fantastic effort against the defending NBA champions.
The Lakers will open their postseason against the No. 2 Phoenix Suns beginning Sunday.
The Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies, who defeated the San Antonio Spurs 100-96 in the play-in tournament earlier Wednesday.
The winner of that game, which will occur Friday, will face the No. 1 Utah Jazz beginning Sunday.
This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.
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