LOS ANGELES – The Warriors opened the last 24 games of their regular season with a dud on Thursday-evening.
After a week-long layoff before the All-Star break, the Warriors spent the last two days practicing in the City of Angels talking about rejuvenating for the final sprint to the finish. But Golden State was plagued by sloppy shooting and poor defense, leading to the Los Angeles Lakers taking the game and winning 124-111.
Before the game, coach Steve Kerr spoke of the increased sense of urgency with how tight the Western Conference rankings are. Just 3 1/2 games separate fourth in the Western Conference from 12th, and the Warriors are right in the thick of it, sitting in ninth. LeBron James watched the busy playoff race and said the Lakers’ last 23 games were the most important regular season games of his career.
“It’s a sprint to the finish,” Kerr said pregame. “We’re all in this precarious position where we could be in the play-in, we could sneak in six, we could go out completely, and (with 24 games left), there’s especially right after All- Star break can you feel the finish line The grind of the season is behind us So usually guys come back from the break pretty refreshed and recharged and given the league and standings standings I agree I think this are huge competitions.
But the Warriors couldn’t rise to the challenge on Thursday night, nor could they evade it.
After a poor start, the Warriors showed signs of life in the second quarter, cutting a 13-point deficit to three at the half. Jordan Poole played a big part in that, coming on late to hit back-to-back 3s.
But Golden State couldn’t carry that momentum into the second half. The Lakers defeated the Warriors 36-24 in the third quarter. Golden State waved the white flag early in the fourth inning, replacing Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole for Moses Moody and Patrick Baldwin Jr. Jonathan Kuminga was the lone starter to see the field for the rest of the game.
With the Warriors’ postseason situation balanced, it was far from the ideal way for the Warriors, who are 29-30, to open the final push of their season. To make matters worse, Golden State is missing the most important pieces of their puzzle, with Stephen Curry (leg injury), Andrew Wiggisn (family issue) and Gary Payton II (core injury) out for the foreseeable future.
It will be an uphill battle from here on out. They will have a quick turnaround, hosting the Houston Rockets on Friday.