SAN FRANCISCO — The Los Angeles Lakers are facing a Golden State Warriors team that has hit 42 3-pointers through the first two games of their second-round series, setting a league record for most 3s hit by any team through the opening two games of a playoff round.
They are trying to stop a Warriors squad that, in Thursday’s 127-100 Game 2 win, had not one, but two 40-point quarters — the first time that’s happened in franchise history. And for a team that’s won four championships in the past eight seasons, that’s saying something.
They are attempting to thwart the best-shooting backcourt ever assembled, with both future Hall of Famers locked in with Klay Thompson scoring 30 points through three quarters on 8-for-11 shooting from 3 and Stephen Curry finishing with 20 points and 12 assists to even the series.
Despite the challenge, LeBron James said the Lakers — who turned around their season after the trade deadline by turning up their defense — are not going to let their defensive standards slip because of the opponent.
“We’re still the best defensive team in the league, if not one of them,” James said. “So that doesn’t change. That’s what we hang our hats on. … That doesn’t stop no matter who we’re playing against.”
Even with the Warriors’ explosive night, L.A. still has the second-best defensive rating out of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions. Only the New York Knicks are better (105.9).
But Thursday was a letdown, obviously.
L.A. led by seven after the first quarter, with James scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
And then the wheels came off.
Golden State blitzed the Lakers in the second and third quarters, outscoring them 84-47.
In 32 quarters of basketball this postseason coming into Game 2 — between the play-in game against Minnesota, first-round series against Memphis and the Lakers’ Game 1 win over Golden State — L.A. hadn’t allowed 40 once. Then it happened in back-to-back quarters.
“They’re going to go on runs. That’s what they do. But you got to keep scoring, try to hold the fort down.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham, with his team down by 30 to start the fourth, pulled his starters and finished the game giving minutes to the end of his bench in Tristan Thompson, Shaquille Harrison and rookie Max Christie.
James said the Lakers’ offense will be key to staying connected with the Warriors when their shooters get hot.
“You got to keep scoring, get to the free throw line as well, or just get points in the paint,” James said. “They’re going to go on runs. That’s what they do. But you got to keep scoring, try to hold the fort down.”
L.A. had only nine free throw attempts through the first three quarters after getting to the line 29 times in Game 1.
“I thought they did a good job of crowding the paint and not allowing us, trying to prevent us from playing downhill as much,” Ham said. “That in turn affects what we do at the free throw line.”
There was also a major drop off for Anthony Davis, who had 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting after 30 points on 11-for-19 in the opener.
“I took all the same shots I took in Game 1. I just missed them,” Davis said. “Elbow jumpers. Pocket passes to the floater. Same exact looks. Didn’t shoot no shot that I didn’t shoot in Game 1. Just missed them. That’s all.”
It was a similar story to Davis’ ebb and flow against the Grizzlies, when every time he scored 20 or more in a game was followed by him scoring 16 points or fewer.
“We’ll be better. I’ll be better making those shots,” Davis said. “We’ll get back home on our home floor and try to take care of business.”
Even with the loss, L.A. is 15-5 in its past 20 games dating back to mid-March. And these Lakers have only lost consecutive games once since overhauling their roster with multiple trades at the deadline.
They will host Game 3 on Saturday at Crypto.com Arena, where they are 4-0 this postseason.
“I fully anticipate our team to respond in the right way,” Ham said.
But there is no denying what the Warriors are capable of.
“We got our work cut out for us,” Ham said. “You don’t get to this point in the season by it being easy.”