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Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Davis Dominates Paint as Lakers Seize Homecourt Advantage With 117-112 Win at Golden State

Anthony Davis scored 30 points on 11-19 field goal shooting, grabbed 23 rebounds, passed for five assists, and blocked four shots to lead the L.A. Lakers to a 117-112 game one win at Golden State. Davis joined Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal as the only Lakers players to have at least 30 points, at least 20 rebounds, and at least five assists in the same playoff game. The Lakers outscored the Warriors in the paint 54-28, outrebounded the Warriors 53-49, and held the Warriors to .406 field goal shooting (43-106), including .415 (22-53) from inside the arc. 

The Warriors made 21 three pointers and shot an excellent .396 from beyond the arc while the Lakers shot 6-25 (.240) from three point range--but the Lakers won by controlling the paint, mainly because of Davis but also with help from LeBron James, who had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. The Lakers would have won more comfortably if James had not shot 1-8 from three point range and instead focused on attacking the paint. James scored 22 points on 9-24 field goal shooting, and when he stayed inside the three point arc he made half of his shots. 

Dennis Schroder scored 19 points, shooting 5-10 from the field and 9-10 from the free throw line.

Stephen Curry did not duplicate the sparking productivity and efficiency he displayed while scoring 50 points in Golden State's game seven win at Sacramento; he finished with 27 points on 10-24 field goal shooting, and his fellow Splash Brother had similar numbers: 25 points on 9-25 field goal shooting. Jordan Poole contributed 21 points on 7-15 field goal shooting, but he fired up a wild shot from way beyond the arc with 9.7 seconds remaining and the Warriors only down by three points; he had plenty of time to get a better shot for himself or make one more pass, instead of letting the outcome of the game hinge on one low percentage shot: everyone goes crazy about logo shots when they go in, but they are low percentage shots, and but most of the time you can spell "logo shot" more simply: l-o-s-s. Kevon Looney had 10 points, 23 rebounds, and five assists, but no other Warrior had more than six rebounds.

I have repeatedly written about the importance of game one in general, and it is obviously significant to win a game one on the road, but let's not forget that the Warriors trailed 2-0 in the first round before eliminating the Kings, and they trailed 2-1 to the Boston Celtics in last year's NBA Finals before winning that series in six games. Statistically, most teams that lose game one or that fall behind 2-1 or 3-2 will lose, but the Warriors have proven capable of overcoming those odds.

Today will be a good day to skip watching or listening to the basketball talking heads, because one win by this particular Lakers team is likely to prompt collective insanity from the chattering class. When Anthony Davis dominates the paint at both ends of the court, it is difficult to beat the L.A. Lakers, a simple basketball truth that explains the ups and downs of the Lakers' 2022-23 season--but one can be certain that other game recaps are going to reference some combination of "lasers," how brilliant it was to trade future Hall of Famer Russell Westrbrook for three role players, and how important outside shooting is in the modern game because of the "gravity" it provides, which is just one aspect of the secret wisdom that only "stat gurus" have as a result of their special understanding of "advanced basketball statistics." 

It is true that D'Angelo Russell played well in game one, scoring 19 points on 9-19 field goal shooting while passing for six assists. He shot 1-5 from three point range. This is the third time in seven playoff games this season that he scored at least 19 points, and the third time that he shot at least .450 from the field. He is making a solid contribution, but he did not singlehandedly turn the Lakers' season around (nor did getting rid of Westbrook amount to some form of addition by subtraction). Jarred Vanderbilt played good defense, grabbed six rebounds, and scored eight points on 2-7 field goal shooting. Malik Beasley, the third player acquired in the Westbrook trade, did not play and he has now fallen completely out of the rotation.

Anthony Davis missed 24 of the Lakers' first 51 games. He has missed just two games since that time, and he has played in all seven playoff games. The Lakers' midseason acquisition of a healthy Anthony Davis is, by far, their most significant "trade." The second most important acquisition for the Lakers is the return, to some extent at least, of the version of LeBron James that plays in the paint; as noted above, he is still jacking up way too many three pointers, but he is rebounding, he is playing defense on most possessions, and he is driving to the hoop sometimes. It is the play of the two members of the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team that can open up opportunities for the rest of the roster, not the other way around. How dangerous would this Lakers team be if they had been willing and able to fully utilize Westbrook's skills?

It will be interesting listening to (or avoiding) all of the talk by the "experts" in the next few days, and then it will be very interesting to watch the rest of this series.

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posted by David Friedman @ 10:15 AM



At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 11:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They wouldn’t have made the playoffs with Westbrook. Russ is an all-time great, but his subtraction allowed the Lakers to add outside threats to open the inside (even if the Beasley has been a dud) and got Vanderbilt as a long, versatile defender against SGA, Doncic, Ja and now Curry.

Not sure about your obsession with Russ, btw, clouding an otherwise brilliant, impartial analysis. Tremendous player and I wish it worked out, happy he’s now with the Clips. But man…

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 12:19:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


Solid points, all of which you have emphasized repeatedly about these Lakers and their taking advantage of their size and paint presence. Davis looked like a man possessed especially in the first half. I think SVG made good points in the telecast yesterday when Davis was drifting too much in the perimeter/attempting 3-pt shots at some points in the second half. If AD plays like this consistently throughout the entire series, he will more than "cancel out" Looney's rebounding; nobody on the Dubs' roster can stop Davis one-on-one.

I thought Vanderbilt did a solid job with his length and athleticism to disrupt Steph's rhythm. We'll see how the Warriors respond, but the stat of the Splash Bros + Poole all having 6 triples and still losing for the first time is remarkable. These bigger Lakers are a much different team with playoff-tested leaders in James and Davis. James simply cannot find the range thus far this postseason from three-point range, much like he did in the regular season.

Just one minor correction to what you stated about the Golden State overcoming series deficits: the Warriors actually led 3-2 in the series vs the Kings; they were not down 3-2. If I recall correctly, the last time the Warriors overcame a 3-2 series deficit was against the 2018 Rockets in the WCF.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 1:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Lakers shot 6-25 from three point range, including 1-5 by that great "laser" DLo.

I will be looking for Vanderbilt on the All-Defensive Team. Based on the commentary I keep hearing, he is an incredible combination of Rodman-Bowen-Metta World Peace all wrapped together in one outstanding, once in a lifetime defender. I am stunned that he was not a max level player for any of his three previous teams in his four year career.

Regarding my "obsession" with Westbrook, dispense with armchair psychology and point out specifically something that I have written about Westbrook that is demonstrably false.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 1:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you!

I have fixed the statement about Warriors' comebacks.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 1:48:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

Aye, I watched the game last night. Lakers just straight up bullied the Warriors.

The gap in shooting between them is HUGE. While the Lakers are bad at shooting, the GSW do not have enough bigs.

The Kings had only one legit big in Sabonis so the Warriors could throw Looney at him. Anthony Davis is on another level.

The Lakers' bigs aren't just physical - they are also skilled. Davis, James, and Vanderbilt will eat all series long. We will see if the Warriors will make up the difference with more shooting, but the Lakers will bully them the entire series.

But it won't be a sweep. More likely a 7 game deathmatch.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 2:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Not this thread's Anonymous, Boston-might-be-unfocused Anonymous)

I know you're joking but I honestly wouldn't be shocked if Vanderbilt makes an All-D team in the next year or so. He's good enough (and improving) on that end, but it remains to be seen if he can contribute consistently enough offensively to maintain the minutes it usually takes to make those teams.

I was really impressed by his work on Curry yesterday, both on-ball and off. Really made him work to even get the ball. Curry is a great player and will probably "solve" him soon but that was the most I can remember an individual defender bothering Curry since he's added the muscle.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 2:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not OP, but...

"Regarding my "obsession" with Westbrook, dispense with armchair psychology and point out specifically something that I have written about Westbrook that is demonstrably false."

Didn't you say repeatedly, and also like, recently that he was the best guard of the post-Kobe generation?

I think at the very least Steph clears him pretty cleanly. Like, laps him, even.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 2:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In Curry's last 30 playoff games (i.e., every playoff game in the post-KD era), he has shot worse than .450 from the field 15 times. Maybe he faced an All-Defensive Team caliber player every time, maybe he had an off night, maybe he was not focused.

I like Vanderbilt. I would want to have him on my team. I just would not devalue a future HoFer to the point that the best I can get for that future HoFer is an erratic one dimensional offensive player (Russell), and a scrappy hustle player who cannot score outside of the paint (plus a guy who is collecting splinters sitting on the bench).

Maybe I'm crazy, and I realize no one is calling me with an offer to run the Lakers, but that is my take.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 3:18:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In 2014--prior to Curry's ascension to greatness--I predicted that Westbrook would inherit Kobe's spot as both the best guard in the NBA and a "vastly underrated superstar" (http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2014/03/russell-westbrook-inherits-kobe-bryants.html).

At the time that I made that statement about Westbrook, many "experts" declared that Westbrook could not be a real point guard, and they picked apart his game (much like they still do now).

Subsequent to my statement, Westbrook won two scoring titles and three assist titles while also averaging a triple double for three straight seasons (and four seasons in a five year span).

He also won the 2017 regular season MVP, and he was selected to the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team.

Would I take Curry now over Westbrook now? Of course.

In retrospect, and particularly in light of Curry's play during last year's playoffs/Finals, would I take Curry's body of work over Westbrook's? Yes.

All of that being said, a strong argument can be made that at his peak Westbrook was the best guard in the NBA.

I disagree with the notion that such a statement is demonstrably false, or that such a statement indicates an "obsession" with Westbrook.

A good argument could be made that Oscar Robertson was the best guard in the 1960s, and a good argument could be made that Jerry West was the best guard in the 1960s. Neither argument is demonstrably false.

A demonstrably false statement would be "James Harden is the greatest scorer in NBA history." A prominent President of Basketball Operations publicly made that statement, and he stands by it.I am not always right, but I don't make statements that are demonstrably false.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 3:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not trying to be difficult here, but it wasn't just Curry's shooting percentage that was a good showing from Vanderbilt. He also had more turnovers (5) than assists (3), and shot only one free throw.

Of those 15 games under .450, he had more FTAs and Assists in all of them (and often a lot more), and usually (though not always; three of them he is also had 5) fewer TOs as well. It's the only game of those 15 where his turnovers outnumbered his assists (despite a mostly good shooting night from his teammates, notably) and only the third time it's happened in the post-KD era at all (in the other two he had high-efficiency scoring nights to compensate).

Significantly, at least 3 of those turnovers were all Vanderbilt's fast hands and long arms. Maybe all five, I wasn't counting as the game went but I remember three of them.

There's also nothing in the box score except for maybe +- that captures how many times Vanderbilt was just able to keep Curry out of a play, resulting in dubious shots from Klay or Poole late in the clock.

Like I said, I'm sure it won't last (Curry's eventually solved everyone who seemed to give him trouble eventually, dating back to 2015 Tony Allen and Delladova), but it was probably the second biggest factor in last night's win behind what's probably going to turn out to be AD's best game of the series.

At Wednesday, May 03, 2023 7:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Do you think that Davis and James blocking shots and altering shots may have had anything to do with Curry's performance? Or do you think that Vanderbilt is in fact Rodman/Bowen/Metta World Peace rolled into one, the greatest lockdown defender known to basketball?

As I keep saying, when Davis and James decided to (1) actually play and (2) play in the paint, the Lakers obtained better results.

The media narrative is that the Lakers traded that good for nothing Westbrook and instantly improved. I am disputing that narrative. I am not saying that DLo is no good or that Vanderbilt can't defend or even that the Lakers are not playing better now. I am saying that, to the extent that the Lakers are better, by far the main reasons are the changes in disposition and availability of Davis and James.

At Thursday, May 04, 2023 3:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think two things can affect a performance, yes. Certainly Lebron and Davis helped challenge some of Curry's shots at the rim. Certainly Vanderbilt helped steer Curry towards them in ways D-Lo, Reaves, and other Laker defenders are not as capable of doing.

Certainly Lebron and Davis were nowhere nearby while Vanderbilt was denying Curry the ball on the perimeter and forcing lesser Warriors to make plays, nor did they have much to do with his forcing those turnovers or blocking two of Curry's shots himself. That game was close enough that if even one of those two shots goes un-blocked, the Warriors may have won, let alone if both had gone in.

You seem to like to create these false binaries where only one thing can be true.

The Lakers almost certainly would have lost that game if Davis did not dominate the paint on both sides of the ball. This is true.

The Lakers almost certainly would have lost that game if Vanderbilt did not do an excellent job denying Curry the ball, forcing turnovers, and challenging his shots when Davis or Lebron were not nearby. This is also true.

Davis being the biggest reason the Lakers are playing better is true, but it also does not mean that Vanderbilt and D-Lo are not also reasons the Lakers are playing better.

At Thursday, May 04, 2023 3:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not creating "false binaries."

I am analyzing which factors are most important to team success, and I am analyzing flawed media coverage of those factors (and flawed media coverage in general).

If Davis and James are not protecting the paint, then Vanderbilt's efforts would largely be in vain, because Curry would go right around him and finish in the paint, as he did repeatedly in game seven versus Sacramento, and as he regularly does versus teams lacking paint defenders.

Vanderbilt is not locking up Curry in a one on one game, as you seem to be suggesting.

The active presence of Davis and James in the paint changes everything.

Nobody heard or cared about Vanderbilt as he bounced around to three different teams--but now he is playing with an actively engaged Davis.

So, the media notions are false: the Lakers struggled early in the season not because of anything that Westbrook did or didn't do and not because they needed "lasers" but because the absence of Davis (and James' focus on the scoring record) made winning very difficult.

I write about false media notions because I am a writer who is concerned about the sorry state of journalism.

I write about why teams win or lose because I am fascinated by basketball strategy and tactics.

DLo and Vanderbilt are role players (and Beasley is not even a rotation player). The media notion that trading a future HoFer (even one who may not be at the absolute peak of his powers) for two role players and a non-rotation player somehow saved the Lakers' season is ludicrous.

Your analysis of Vanderbilt's skill set is fine--but the skills you are identifying are not the main reason that the Lakers are playing better, and those skills would be largely irrelevant without the presence of Davis and James in the paint.


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