LOS ANGELES — The Warriors opened up the final 24-game stretch of their regular season Thursday night with a dud.
After a weeklong layoff for the All-Star break, the Warriors spent the last two days of practice in the City of Angels talking about being rejuvenated for the final sprint to the finish line. But Golden State was plagued by shoddy shooting and poor defense, which led to the Los Angeles Lakers running away with the game to win 124-111.
Before the game, coach Steve Kerr talked about the increased sense of urgency with how tight the Western Conference standings are. Only 3 1/2 games separate fourth place in the Western Conference with 12th, and the Warriors are right in the thick of it, sitting in ninth. LeBron James looked at the congested playoff race and said the Lakers’ final 23 games were the most important regular season games of his career.
“It is a sprint to the finish line,” Kerr said pregame. “We’re all in this precarious position where we could be in the play-in, we could sneak into six, we could fall out entirely, and [with 24 games left], there’s especially right after All-Star break, you sense 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 state of the league and the standings, I agree, I think these are huge games.”
But the Warriors couldn’t step up to the challenge Thursday night nor could they get out of their way.
After a poor start, the Warriors showed signs of life in the second quarter, trimming a 13-point deficit to three by the half. Jordan Poole played a big part in that, coming alive late to hit back-to-back 3s.
But Golden State couldn’t carry that momentum into the second half. The Lakers thumped the Warriors 36-24 in the third quarter. Golden State waved the white flag early in the fourth, subbing out Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole for Moses Moody and Patrick Baldwin Jr. Jonathan Kuminga was the lone starter to see the court the rest of the game.
With the Warriors’ postseason situation in balance, 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 key pieces to their puzzle, with Stephen Curry (leg injury), Andrew Wiggisn (family matter) and Gary Payton II (core injury) out for the foreseeable future.
It’ll continue to be an uphill battle from here. They’ll have a quick turnaround, hosting the Houston Rockets on Friday.