Lakers survive Warriors’ three-point attack to grab home-court advantage

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, tries to power his way past Warriors forward Kevon Looney.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to power his way past Warriors forward Kevon Looney during the second quarter of Game 1 on Tuesday night at Chase Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

When you get to this stage of a Hall of Fame career, a space that LeBron James shares with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr, you learn to savor the firsts.

James versus these guys on the road to the NBA Finals? Never happened before.

The Lakers and the Warriors, L.A. and the Bay, in the NBA playoffs? It hadn’t happened since 1991 when Magic Johnson and James Worthy shut down Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond.

But even though this was new, it didn’t feel forced. None of it was awkward. Game 1s in the NBA playoffs are classically considered to be “feel out” games, but this, Tuesday night at Chase Center, felt so right, so familiar, the exact kind of big-time basketball when you combine all these ingredients.


The Lakers and Golden State Warriors slipped into the game like a perfectly broken-in pair of sneakers, the Lakers announcing exactly what they wanted to do while the Warriors did the same.

The end result? The Lakers’ size, physicality and force were more effective than the Warriors’ three-point shooting, the Lakers winning 117-112 to open the Western Conference semifinals and snatch the home-court edge.

The best photos from the Lakers’ 117-112 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals.

May 2, 2023

Anthony Davis became the fifth Laker to have a 30-point, 20-rebound game while dominating in the paint. The others? Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.

“The Lakers franchise over the years … has always had dominant big men, dominant guys that have been a force at the rim. That’s why their jerseys are in the rafters,” James said. “And AD’s will be up there when he’s done.”

His late block on Curry, Davis’ fourth blocked shot of the game, plus a missed potential game-tying three by Golden State’s Jordan Poole, maintained just enough breathing room for Dennis Schroder to close out the game at the free-throw line.

Davis finished with 30 points and 23 rebounds, James had 22 and 11 and Schroder and D’Angelo Russell each scored 19.


Davis played the entire second half.

“It’s history,” coach Darvin Ham said of Davis’ game. “But that’s what we expect of him. It’s what he’s capable of.”

Curry had 27, Thompson had 25 and Poole had 21 off the bench.

On the road in the series opener, the Lakers found themselves under pressure, forced to survive a stretch in which they went scoreless for 4½ minutes late in the fourth quarter while the defending champions authored a comeback.

There are plenty of story lines in the Lakers-Warriors playoff series, but generational talents LeBron James and Stephen Curry are at the forefront.

May 1, 2023

The Warriors scored 14 straight points, a Curry three tying the game and putting the crowd on its feet in the final two minutes before the Lakers went right back to attacking the rim, the place on the court where they couldn’t be stopped.

Russell’s driving layup with 1:24 left gave the Lakers the lead for good, the final answer to the Warriors’ 40% three-point shooting.

In the 48-hour build-up to the series opener, the only real given was just how different the challenges would be for both teams after their first-round matchups.

“You try to adapt as quickly as possible,” Kerr said before the game.

The Lakers were going to need to move their defense from the inside out to try to deter the Warriors’ elite shooters. They were going to need to chase more than fight through beefy screens like those the Memphis Grizzlies set in their first-round series.


The Lakers’ perimeter defenders shaded Curry, Thompson and Poole like umbrellas, sacrificing all the space inside the three-point line in an effort to keep them from getting loose beyond it.

Golden State, the NBA’s leader in three-point attempts, was determined to put the math in its favor.

The Warriors took 30 three-point attempts in the first half, making 13 compared to just one make for the Lakers, the kind of edge that would sink most teams.

But Golden State, like the Lakers, was facing new challenges as well.

In Round 2, the Warriors were going to be greeted with the kind of interior defense they didn’t see in their seven-game series with the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers’ defense has become one of the NBA’s best, and before the game, Ham said he was confident Davis could dominate from the paint like he did in the first round when he blocked 26 shots.

He might not get challenged at the rim 26 times in this series, his presence acting as a complete deterrent, keeping the Warriors from even trying to score off the dribble at the rim.

The only cracks in the interior showed up when Kevon Looney, a premiere offensive rebounder, was able to create second and third chances for Golden State.


Looney grabbed 23 rebounds, seven offensive, in the first back-to-back 20-plus-rebound performance for a Warrior since Nate Thurmond in 1967.

But while the Kings were a fun story and a worthy first-round opponent, the Warriors didn’t see a big man as dominant as Davis.

Davis made nine of his first 10 shots as he helped the Lakers weather the early three-point barrage from Golden State. He relentlessly attacked Looney or anyone else the Warriors tried to put in front of him.

The Warriors made their run late with Looney on the bench, playing small in an effort to pull Davis away from the basket. It worked — just not well enough.

“He dominated and he blocked four shots and altered some others,” Kerr said. “That’s what this team has been doing now for the last few months. They have been one of the best defensive teams in the league for a reason and he’s a huge part of that. So he had a great game, and we’ll watch the tape and we’ll see where we can find better ways to attack.”

The Lakers did what they wanted. By winning Game 1, with Davis dominating, it’s on the Warriors to figure out if what they do will be good enough.