Changes were made, as they are in every competitive playoff series.
The Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson worked on his form to improve his shooting. Forward Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers struggled. And Kevon Looney’s absence saw JaMychal Green get the nod at centre for the Warriors.
This culminated in Thursday’s Game 2 victory for the Warriors against the Lakers, 127-100. The Warriors’ victory in Game 2 evened the series at 1-1; here are five further observations. Next Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC), Game 3 will be played at Staples Center, home of the Lakers.
In the end, Klay Thompson had his finest performance in the playoffs
After ten years in the NBA, Thompson’s rhythm, touch, and shooting still looked as good as they did back then. He scored 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field and 8-for-11 shooting from deep, the sixth time he has done it in a playoff game throughout his career.
KLAY THOMPSON— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 5, 2023
Seven threes (& counting) pic.twitter.com/wkgdz8gvea
But this one needed a new sensation altogether. In his first postseason game, Thompson defeated an opponent he had admired since childhood. After being an integral part of the Showtime Lakers’ second act, Klay’s dad, Mychal, is now the team’s radio analyst.
Mychal took a young Klay to see the Lakers play, and there Klay met players like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who were all part of the team’s championship teams in the early 2000s. Thompson enjoyed his first-ever matchup with Bryant about ten years ago. Klay and Mychal Thompson consider facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Warriors’ offence took on a new persona with Thompson as the team’s leading scorer on Thursday. Most of Thompson’s points came from catch-and-shoot situations, which call for nimble feet, good ball handling, and plenty of off-ball movement.
Stephen Curry benefited from the relief, scoring 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from deep. As a result of Thompson’s baskets, Curry racked up 12 assists. When Curry leads the Warriors in scoring, they are a hazardous team. But Thompson’s solid performance relieved some of the load for Curry and made the Warriors more challenging to predict.
Anthony Davis spent the evening in peace.
That’s what the Lakers keep repeating. The key to their success or failure is how robust and combative Davis can remain regularly. Davis had a somewhat quiet night in Game 2 following his spectacular effort in Game 1. He scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven boards. He committed four turnovers, more than his three blocks and equal to his four assists combined. And he only got one shot at a free throw, which he made.
The smaller Warriors lineup did help their defence. LeBron James scored 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting and 3-for-8 from 3-point range to help compensate for Davis’s absence. Yes, the Lakers could do a better job of finding Davis open shots.
But the buck stops with the big guy here. Whatever the defensive coverages or play calls the Warriors employ, he must be aggressive for this to succeed. He needs to be more skilled to let luck determine his performance.
The Warriors changed their starting lineup.
For Game 2, the Warriors made an unexpected personnel change. According to reports from within the organization, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr benched centre Kevon Looney in favour of rookie JaMychal Green. Looney continued to play despite this. In 12 minutes off the bench, he contributed six points and eight boards.
However, Green’s debut caught many off guard for two reasons. In the seven-game playoff series between the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings, he played 23 minutes. And Kerr might have given Davis another chance with the smaller Warriors group, including agile second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga.
The change in the starting lineup was successful. Green scored 15 points in 13 minutes of action, shooting 6 for 9 and 3 for six from long. The Warriors’ new starting lineup provided greater spacing for their attack. The Warriors’ more minor team helped them score more, but it also meant Davis had to spend more time defending the perimeter, reducing his effectiveness near the basket.
Whether or whether this is a lasting change for Kerr, time will tell. Once Looney recovers from his illness, he may be able to return to work. At the very least, this may get Green into the postseason rotation for this series.
Anyway, the Lakers got to rest early.
It’s reasonable to ask if the Lakers’ tiredness had a role in their performance in Game 2. Davis (44 minutes) and James (40 minutes) had high workloads in the series’ opening game, played two days prior. Successful mission completion, but a contributing factor to their subpar performance in Game 2. What’s the bright side? The Lakers got some more time off because of how easily they won.
Coach Darvin Ham sat all his players in the fourth quarter as the Warriors took a 110-80 advantage. James and Davis, in particular, benefited from this extra rest time. This Saturday’s Game 3 in Los Angeles could include Davis (33 minutes) and James (28) looking more focused and on point.
The gap between free throws has shrunk.
The Warriors’ lack of foul calls was similar to Game 1, unlike the Lakers in Game 1. The Warriors scored 10 for 16 from the charity stripe, while the Lakers scored 10 for 17. That’s a drastic improvement over the Lakers’ Game 1 shooting performance (25 for 29). Game 1 saw the Warriors hit only 50% of their shots.
For various reasons, the Lakers’ free throw attempts were reduced in Game 2. Davis’s performance was below par. The Warriors weren’t hit with a wave of early fouls. In addition, the Lakers improved from Game 1’s 6 for 25 three-point shooting to Game 2’s 10 for 34. While the Lakers’ recent success from deep is encouraging, their success when driving to the basket and drawing contact is where they truly shine.