Top Takeaways from Warriors' Win vs. Lakers with LeBron James, Stephen Curry Out
When the NBA's schedule-makers linked up the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers for the final Thursday of the 2021-22 season, this could not have been the contest they had in mind.
A showdown between potential conference powers instead saw the lottery-bound Lakers suffer a 16-point loss to the third-seeded Warriors. The star power was completely erased on L.A.'s side as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony all sat out the contest, and Golden State was again without Stephen Curry, who is hoping to return from a left foot injury by the first round of the playoffs.
Curry's sibling in splash, Klay Thompson, paced the club with 33 points and shot 6-of-10 from distance. Jordan Poole had a double-double (19 points, 11 assists), and Otto Porter Jr. nearly had his own off the bench (10 points, eight boards).
L.A. countered with a game-high 40 points from Talen Horton-Tucker, while Malik Monk paired his 24 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Dwight Howard had his second double-double in five games with 16 points and 12 rebounds in his 25 minutes.
Klay Thompson Is Heating Up
Back from a two-year layoff with major injuries, Thompson entered the campaign as the biggest unknown in Golden State's championship blueprint. He might exit the campaign with that same label, or at least rank second to Curry's health.
That's unless, of course, the past two weeks are any indication of what's to come. If they are, the five-time All-Star is getting his groove back at the ideal time.
Thursday marked his second consecutive 30-point outing and fourth time in five games with 25-plus points. His averages over this stretch include 28.8 points and an astronomic 5.8 triples, all enhanced by a sizzling 46.2/43.9/100 shooting slash.
"I really like where Klay is now," Steve Kerr told reporters. "I think he's strung together some good games, and he just looks more comfortable and more relaxed."
If Thompson carries this momentum over to the playoffs, look out. A healthy Curry remains an MVP candidate. Had Green stayed healthy this entire season, he might have walked away with Defensive Player of the Year honors. These three have previously keyed championship runs, and they'll have a chance to do the same over the next two months.
Lakers Bet on Talen Horton-Tucker for a Reason
It's hard to pin down the biggest disappointment among a historically disappointing season for the Lakers, but Horton-Tucker's performance makes the short list.
The Lakers clearly had big plans for him after making him their fourth-highest-paid player last offseason, and they just never came to fruition. For whatever reason, the third-year swingman has seemed out of rhythm all season. He not only failed to leap forward from his sophomore campaign, he actually regressed and saw declines in both his field-goal (42.2) and three-point (27.4) percentages.
Still, there have been moments—like Thursday night—when you get why the Lakers deemed him worthy of a salary splurge. He had a brilliant run to a career-high 40 points, shooting 15-of-28 from the field and 8-of-9 at the stripe. Interestingly, the Lakers' skipper credited some of THT's success to the style employed by the depleted Lakers.
"He's at this best with the ball in his hands with shooters around him," Vogel told reporters. "We haven't been able to create that type of role for him. But you see what he can do when he has that type of setting."
Considering James also works best when surrounded by spacers, it remains baffling why L.A. doesn't have more three-and-D players and sharpshooters on the roster. The Lakers have plenty of problems to correct this offseason, but building a more complementary supporting cast ranks near the top.