Down a third of their roster and with nothing left to play for this season, a pressure-free Lakers team had a good showing but ultimately lost to a playoff-bound Warriors squad, 128-112.
Too many self-inflicted wounds, namely in the way of turnovers in the second half, doomed a Lakers team that made up what it didn’t have in talent with effort and energy. Led by Talen Horton-Tucker’s career-high 40 points — 19 of those coming in the fourth quarter — on 15-28 shooting and Malik Monk’s 24 points and seven rebounds on 8-17 shooting, the Lakers tried to keep pace with the Warriors. Dwight Howard was impressive underneath, pulling down 12 rebounds to go along with 16 points in 24 minutes, including his eighth 3-pointer of the season.
But 33 points in 33 minutes from Klay Thompson and a total of 39 assists on 51 made field goals by Golden State proved to be hurdles too large to overcome. Five Warriors finished in double figures in scoring.
After having their season officially ended on Tuesday, the Lakers waved the white flag by sitting all of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, the latter of those being announced pregame with the others revealed well ahead of game time. At the same time, the Lakers waived Trevor Ariza on Thursday as well, giving them yet another play unavailable.
But undermanned or not, the suddenly youthful Lakers were energetic if nothing else against the Warriors. Taking advantage of some sloppiness in the form of turnovers from Golden State, the Lakers more than held their own on the night and led for large stretches of the game.
The team’s real Big Three of Horton-Tucker, Monk and Austin Reaves did most of the damage on the night. Not only did they pace the team in scoring, they took the offensive playmaking responsibilities while still being productive defensively.
But no amount of good defense could slow down Klay Thompson, who had six 3-pointers in the first half alone. His hot shooting kept Golden State in the game in those opening two periods as he had 23 points at the break.
As much effort as the Lakers played with and as much as that covers up flaws, the talent discrepancy began to take its toll to close out the third quarter as the Warriors used a 13-3 run to open up a 91-84 lead.
That margin only grew to open the fourth quarter as multiple turnovers and empty possessions allowed the lead to grow to 96-84. Jordan Poole helped officially blow the game open in the final frame, knocking down a 3-pointer to put the hosts up 113-99. The Lakers could not get closer the rest of the way.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Lakers as they play their penultimate game of the season on Friday on the second night of a back-to-back against the Thunder at home. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. with the game broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet.