Los Angeles: All LeBron James could do was sit on the Lakers’ bench and watch his teammates sleepwalk for the entire first half against a Golden State Warriors team that have the worst record in the NBA and have been plagued by injuries.
James didn’t play because of a sore groin, and his teammates didn’t start playing in earnest until the third quarter, the Lakers finally running away with a 116-86 victory on Thursday night at the Chase Centre.
“We felt their intensity in the first half. Credit coach Kerr,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his Warriors counterpart Steve Kerr. “They’ve done a great job keeping their group playing extremely hard and with great intensity and we saw that in the first half.
“We knew we had to match it or exceed it to get a ‘W,’ and we just raised our level in that third quarter, really the whole second half, on the defensive end.”
The Lakers erupted for 40 points in the third quarter to build a 25-point lead. That put the Lakers on the road to their seventh consecutive victory and sent the Warriors to their eighth straight loss.
The Lakers turned up their defence, holding the Warriors to 17 points on 31.6 per cent shooting in the third.
L.A. outscored Golden State 62-34 in the second half by playing with much more determination.
“We came out with an effort defensively that we didn’t have in the first half,” said Anthony Davis, who did his part by scoring 23 points and grabbing six rebounds. He was 10 for 12 from the free-throw line and six for 13 from the field.
“We know that this team likes to get out and run. They like to shoot a three and they feed off their turnovers. They are fourth in the league in forcing turnovers. We had 11 or 12 turnovers in the first half. We can’t afford to do that against a team like this. So, we made sure that we got stops, got out and ran and when we did that we were able to build a lead.”
Rajon Rondo, who started in place of James, had 12 points, six assists and was a plus-17 for the game.
Kyle Kuzma came off the bench to give the Lakers 18 points. Dwight Howard had 13 points and nine rebounds.
The Lakers had to know that the Warriors would give their all despite being without All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and despite entering the game with a 12-46 record, easily the worst in the league.
If nothing else, the Warriors play hard, and even with Draymond Green getting ejected in the second quarter after picking up two technical fouls, they didn’t back down against the top team in the West.
They stayed close to the Lakers for a half, trailing 54-52.
The Lakers turned the ball over 12 times in the first 24 minutes. They had only nine assists in the first half to 17 for Golden State.
Eric Paschall had 23 points to lead the Warriors.
The Lakers have two games left on this three-game trip, and the hope is that James will be able to play either at Memphis on Saturday or at New Orleans on Sunday.
“Just dealing with some soreness and we’re still two days away from that,” Vogel said. “So, we’ll see what he feels like on Saturday morning, see how he’s feeling.”