Looks like another perfect day…
Nobody looks good playing hungover. And the weary road Warriors, who’ve only tipped off twice in the confines of the Coliseum since February 9 (think of it this way, Prince has had more appearances on their home court in that time) looked every bit the team who’d forgotten to take a pre-emptive Aquafina & Alka-Selzer after the after party at the Chateau Marmont, much less remove their warm-ups through three quarters.
In the fourth, as the Warriors’ starters shook out the cobwebs and started to text about a brunch spot in
Silver Lake Echo Park, the reserves of both squads were mopping up what paper is the most lopsided victory by an underdog in well, maybe ever. In spite of schedule makers’ incessant showcasing of its favorite bauble around the league, the Warriors came in at 55-5. The Lakers were 12-51. It was sports’ equivalent of having your Civic rear-ended and totaled by a hit-and-running ‘57 Ferrari 335S.
It’s worth noting that on the home stretch of his victory lap, Kobe Bryant got to say goodbye to the team from the north that originally picked Todd Fuller over him in 1996—the same team he had more ownership over than Chris Cohen for the majority of his career—his way.
It won’t reflect in the box score, Kobe only had 12 and sat most of the fourth, but there was a telling play near the end of the first half that underscored the notion that it would be the Lakers’ day. And not just because it was enough to get Jack out of his seat for the first time in three seasons.
Kobe D’d up Steph Curry with under a minute left. Curry, licking his chops like any MVP in his prime would against the lion who’s been left behind by the pride, took the bait and decided to let Kobe implement his iso game the way he had that defined, and almost ruined, professional basketball in this hemisphere for a decade and a half. As the rest of the floor went over to catch a better glimpse of Rihanna’s choker, Curry head faked once, twice, went behind the legs, once, twice—rolled his shoulders like he was going to drive then signature drop-stepped back about five feet behind the arc.
Kobe didn’t bite.
Curry heaved a shot, the ball clanged off the side iron and Kobe, not used to not getting the call—ever, was whistled. Curry went to the line, obliging with three free throws. But the crowd reaction—the majority of whom were more curious about this passing comet that is Curry and co—was muted. Kobe had done his job. He’d done it well. And for the record, up to his final moments in battle, he is playing with heart.
The Laker faithful, many of whom have watched their former greats march up to Oakland to help orchestrate professional sports’s current most compelling movement: Luke Walton (Warriors’ assistant coach and winner of two Laker rings and a likely candidate to replace Byron Scott next year on the sideline), Steve Nash (erstwhile point guard and special dribbling and shooting envoy for Golden State), Klay Thompson (the goatee’d half of the Splash Brothers and son of the Showtime Laker Bahamian bandit and current color guy Mychal) and The Logo, kingmaker emeritus Jerry West, whose role with the Warriors as Executive Board Member over the last half-decade has been clandestine, if not emblematic.
All were in attendance either on the court, sideline or in the second row next to Ty Burrell in his Newsies cap Sunday—all rooting for the dark blue jerseys.
Little did they know the real show was to be put on by the Lakers’ last few year’s draft picks. Gone like the memory of morning coffee during an early meeting bathroom break are the Lakers’ dynasty transition team straight outta Washington General central casting: Kent Bazemore, Jordan Farmer, MarShon Brooks, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and Chris Kaman.
Instead there was Jordan Clarkson, scoring 25 and playing better defense than the OJ Team alongside soon-to-be-anointed D’Angelo Russell who added 21 points and five assists to cap off his torch-carrying campaign that has been going on since the All-Star Break. The Lakers guards also pulled a neat trick and, the Kobe incident in the first half notwithstanding, double-teamed Curry on nearly every possession. Gregg Popovich will be reviewing this game film for the next 90 days.
Sure, the Warriors aren’t always going to bless their opponents with 20 turnovers and 13 percent shooting from downtown, and you could almost see the creased ones earmarked for Bare Elegance LAX streaming behind them. But the record will reflect it was the Lakers who looked fresher than a fried-egg sandwich from Huckleberry…giving Kobe and the suddenly resurgent Lakers one last thing to tweet about this season—and something to look forward to next.