With the Los Angeles Lakers coming to town, you knew you'd be in for an exciting show against the home Golden State Warriors. The Lakers have the highest team scoring average in the league, and the Warriors are right behind them at number two. Don Nelson, Warriors head coach and second overall in total victories is sitting on career win 1,299, and it would be great to see him hit the 1,300 mark on his home court. It was really fun to see all the up and down play right off the bat. Lakers started going into Luke Walton in the post, and kept going back to Walton throughout the game whenever he was defended by a smaller man. Shortly into the game, it felt like a college atmosphere, with the Warriors fans getting really pumped up, and even the present Lakers fans could be heard. Both teams benches were pivotal in this game, as Corey Maggette threw up 24 points for the Warriors, while Trevor Ariza and Josh Powell came up big for the Lakers. Maggette reminds me a hell of a lot of LeBron James with his physical body and ability to get to the hoop at will. For such an existing first half, Kobe Bryant was relatively quiet for the Lakers, but Pau Gasol was solid from the start. Going into half time, the Lakers gave up the most points of any of their first halves this season - 68.
Stephen Jackson and Jamal Crawford were huge for the Warriors, with Crawford putting up 23 points on just 10 shot attempts. The Warriors lead going into the second half, and were shooting lights out. But would it hold up when the end-of-game pressure would come up? Both teams were playing with high emotion, and lots of spirit - it's refreshing seeing the young Warriors playing with so much talent and a TON of heart. But as suspected, all of the Warriors easy buckets in the first half started coming up short at the end of the third, and they were really struggling to keep up in the fourth.
Going into the fourth, Don Nelson had a court-side interview saying that to beat the Lakers, you have to play four strong quarters or you don't win. And he was right because even though the Warriors looked phenomenal through three, they just collapsed at the end. Lamar Odom was started to get under the skin of the Warriors front line (when they had a front line on the court, that is), and kept pushing the right buttons against the less-experienced players. Odom quietly had 22 points and 7 assists, but down the stretch it was the play of Ariza and Bryant that pulled the Lakers away.
Ariza hit two clutch three-pointers back-to-back, and Kobe had flashes of his usual greatness at the end. Aside from a beautiful 360 two-hand dunk on a breakaway, Kobe's main highlights were two amazing blocks. The Lakers finished the game strong, with their highest scoring quarter of the game, finishing it at 129-121. Don Nelson will have to wait another game for career win 1,300 which will likely not be that far away.