And James likely has a guard named Lonnie Walker IV to thank.
After all, it was Walker who erupted for 15 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Lakers to a 104-101 victory over the Warriors in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
And yes, the Lakers lead by a 3-1 count, with Game 5 set for Wednesday back at Golden State. It will serve as the defending champs’ last stand to fight back and stay alive.
But man, what a night, what a game. The Warriors seemed to have everything on their side — a close game on the road and Curry. For the past few years, that’s all they needed.
These Warriors, though, are built differently. They look more like a one-man show than ever.
And these Lakers are really built differently from the team that started 2-10 in the season. Aside from James and Anthony Davis, they have some real depth. They have cohesion. They have someone new stepping up seemingly every game.
In this one, that man was Walker.
“I’ve been telling him, ‘Stay ready, we’re gonna need you at some point.'” James told Chris Haynes of TNT. “We don’t win this game without Lonnie Walker.”
As James also noted, this game truly did resemble a prizefight. Both teams threw haymakers, both teams stayed to their feet — at least, they did until Curry fell to the ground and threw the ball over his head and out of bounds. That happened with 1.4 seconds left.
“We just stayed in the fight,” James told Haynes. “We stayed in for 12 rounds.”
James finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He didn’t do anything earth-shattering on offense. He just took the game as it came to him, forced little, and he and Davis made Curry and the rest really work at the other end. In fact, Davis came up with some big stops on Curry in the waning moments, forcing the Warriors star to force up some well-defended 3-pointers.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) May 9, 2023
For the night, Curry was an uncharacteristic 3-of-14 on threes. The Lakers had plenty to do with that.
That’s not to take away from Curry’s otherwise phenomenal night of 31 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. But he had to carry almost the entire load. That is tough to do no matter who you are.
Davis added 23 points and 15 boards, and Austin Reaves tacked on an underrated 21 points.
Proved costly in the end though. Lakers up 3-1. https://t.co/oBQxDUbyvA
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) May 9, 2023
So yes, James leads the Warriors by a 3-1 count — just as the Warriors led James and the Cavaliers back in the 2016 Finals. Then James and the Cavs won the title, anyway.
Do these Warriors have it in them for a little redemption? It sure doesn’t seem that way, and that’s nothing against the Warriors. It’s much more to do with what James, Davis (and Walker) and these Lakers have become.