(Los Angeles) A winning basket from LeBron James, half-blinded, 58 seconds to go, saw the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors (103-100) on Wednesday and qualify for the first round of the NBA playoffs where they will challenge the Phoenix Suns.
Golden State, which came close to a great feat at Staples Center, in the wake of a dazzling Stephen Curry (37 points), still has a chance to reach this stage. He will have to beat Memphis on Friday, who eliminated San Antonio (100-96), to give himself the right to challenge Utah, the best team of the regular season in the wake of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
The Lakers would also have had the ulterior motive to favor a confrontation with the Jazz rather than with the impressive collective of the Suns, built around Chris Paul and Devin Booker, that they would not have done better. .
Because their first quarter was extremely laborious, with only 32% success on shots, like James (6 points) and Anthony Davis (5 points), then destitute offensively, but who then accelerated and finished with 22 and 25 points each.
“Both teams played at a high level… They slapped us in the first two quarters, but we were able to respond,” commented James on ESPN.
LeBron "One-Eyed King"
And what an answer. If she was not brilliant in the basketball product, she demonstrated the character of champion which LA could still show when the going does not go as it sees fit. It was through the guts that the Angelenos, led by 13 points at the break, snatched their success against the Warriors who also justified their name very well.
In this crazy end to the game, he floated a scent of the four consecutive finals between Curry and James, when the latter wore the Cleveland jersey, between 2015 and 2018, with three coronations for the Warriors.
First there was Draymond Green's blatant foul on the Lakers star, who caught the winger's fingers in his eyes and only put in just one in two free throws to tie it at 98-98. Then Curry also went on the line to tie 100 everywhere after a Davis dunk . It was then that cornered at the end of possession, James took out a shot… Curry to give a definitive advantage to the score.
“I saw three hoops. So, I aimed the one in the middle ”, simply commented the“ One-eyed King ”, whose right ankle will have been spared, but will have to rest well before the coming games.
On the Warriors side, we will quickly have to forget the disappointment and keep the good things done. And there were some in the game, especially in defense.
First for Spurs
Because Memphis will not be an atoning victim. Carried by the imposing Lithuanian "Grizzly" Jonas Valanciunas, ultra-dominant inside with a double-double at 23 points and 23 rebounds, to which are added 3 blocks, the franchise of Tennessee has resisted the return of Spurs who have were led by 21 points to win on forceps.
The Grizzlies were also able to count on Dillon Brooks (24 points, 7 rebounds) and Ja Morant (20 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds).
The Spurs, who had never missed the playoffs two years in a row in 45 years of presence in the NBA, did not go far from succeeding in the heist, in the wake of their "X factor" Rudy Gay (20 points), author of two of his three baskets behind the arc which maintained the threat of a knockdown.
DeMar DeRozan also scored 20 points, but his skill (5/21) was too low, symbolizing that of the team (35%). This is certainly where this elimination paid off.
The second in a row for coach Gregg Popovich, 72, whose future at the head of the Texan team has arisen at the end of each season for a few years.
He did not say a word about it. Anyway, he must already focus on a next challenge: bringing back a gold medal from the Tokyo Games where he will coach the American team.