This game was pretty weird. For anyone who’s been attending games at Oracle for any length of time, especially fans lucky enough to watch one of the several rollicking Warriors/Lakers matchups back when Kobe Bryant was in his prime and juiced to play in one of his favorite arenas, hearing Warriors fans chant his first name was disorienting.
But Bryant is a senior citizen in basketball terms, this was his last game in Oakland, and the Warriors and their fans were in a mood to respect the Lakers’ elder. There was a fairly lengthy pregame ceremony after Bryant was introduced to loud “KO-BE” chants. Bryant made three of his first six shots, including a long jumper off a crossover move that looked similar to Michael Jordan’s championship-sealing jumper over Byron Russell.
The first half and early third quarter included a lot of sluggish basketball from both teams, however. The Warriors attempted several long, risky passes that were easily intercepted. After Bryant’s semi-warm start, Klay Thompson and his childhood hero engaged in a bricklaying contest. For a while it almost seemed like everyone was in cahoots to get Bryant one last game-winning shot in Oakland. But the Warriors accelerated briefly in the third quarter and left the overmatched Lakers in the dust in a 116-98 win.
The Lakers are awful, and after the Warriors committed the horrible sin of losing last night in Denver (the NERVE), the inability to take a 52-point lead by the beginning of the second quarter seemed to mark a midseason lull of sorts. Perhaps this is a team crying for Steve Kerr to return to the bench and give them a nice kick in the shorts. Or, they’re just exhausted.
“I don’t think (the pregame tribute to Bryant) did anything to our guys,” said Luke Walton. “I think it’s just five games in seven nights with a flight to Denver and back. Guys are tired.”
The Warriors are 37-3, and even 18-point wins over the Lakers are getting scrutinized. Think about how crazy that would’ve sounded five or six years ago. Fatigue is definitely a concern, as Draymond Green sat out the Denver game and there were reports that he might miss this one as well, but he started and didn’t look like himself in the first half (although he certainly wasn’t the only one).
One game away from the halfway point of the season, it’s not surprising that the Warriors would treat a tribute game against one of the league’s worst teams like an exhibition. The coolest moments occurred at the beginning of this game and after its completion. It didn’t make for great basketball, but the night was memorable just the same.
Passing the torch
Bryant and Steph Curry chatted for a bit afterward, and Mamba’s message sounded a lot like the comments made by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on Monday night.
“After the game I told him, I said, ‘You guys have got to go ahead and make history.’ He had the same response that I would have had. He said ‘I’ve got to chase you’ and I said ‘Damn right, absolutely. Come and get them.’ It’s cool for me to get to see these players develop and be able to step back and watch them grow and watch them do what they do,” Bryant said.
“He obviously is a guy that’s won multiple championships and knows the grind it takes to get that done,” Curry said. “He’s just passing the torch.”
Bryant agreed with that last line.
“It’s their time. It’s their time to step up and play and see how many championships they can win. See how many gold medals they can win. I had my run and now it’s important for them to go ahead and carry it forward.”
Dunk No. 2
“The dunk was impressive. He got up,” said Walton. “I still wish that he would lay all of those things up, just because I don’t think the risk-reward is really there.”
Curry’s reaction when told about Walton’s preference (1:28 mark): “He did? Noooo, he’s hatin’. Maybe he doesn’t want me to catch his dunk tally.”
Speaking of dunk tallies, Curry now has two this season. If you check the 1:15 mark of the video above (which starts with some stuff on Bryant but mostly contains his thoughts on the dunk and his night overall), you can see his fist-pump after I told him that he has one more dunk on the season than Tim Duncan.
Here’s what he had to say when I asked him to grade tonight’s dunk: “That was my best of the year. It’s really hard because I only have two to judge so that was really good. It’s feast or famine for me. I like to make it hard on myself.”
— I checked out Bryant’s press conference briefly, but the scrum was huge (at least 30 people), I was in the back, and he was using his library voice so I couldn’t hear a thing. I stuck around for about 45 seconds.
— Derek Carr — a huge Lakers fan — was waiting outside the visitors’ locker room, presumably to chat with the team’s icon.
Derek Carr waiting outside the Lakers locker room pic.twitter.com/jC9TGBPuIP
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) January 15, 2016
— After combining to go 1-for-9 in Denver the night before, Jason Thompson (who started that game) and Mo Speights both got the DNP-CD treatment.
— “This was the best I’ve seen (Harrison Barnes) look tonight,” Luke Walton said. “I’m not just talking about 12 points, just the way he was moving on the floor. To me he looked the best tonight since he’s been back.”
— I would expect Barnes to return to the starting lineup on Saturday in Detroit.
— Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa combined for 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
— Until the dunk, Curry had 24 points and he was 8-for-15 on threes and 0-for-1 on two-point attempts.
“It was feast or famine for me. All threes and a dunk,” said Curry. “I like to make it hard on myself.”
And just for fun, here’s another Curry screen grab for your Tweeting, Facebooking and meme-ing pleasure.