After winning Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals over the Golden State Warriors by 30 points, the Los Angeles Lakers are now in the driver’s seat. They will have the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead when Game 4 tips off on Monday at Crypto.com Arena.
Los Angeles’ effort and intensity were at a much higher level on Saturday than they were in Game 2 when it lost by 27 points. This amped-up effort and intensity showed on the defensive end, as it held Stephen Curry and company to 39.6 percent overall shooting and 29.5 percent from 3-point range.
Game 4 is shaping up to be a virtual must-win contest for both teams. Obviously, Golden State doesn’t want to fall behind 3-1, but the Lakers do not want to give up home court to the defending champs, especially with a pivotal Game 5 and, if necessary, Game 7 taking place in San Francisco.
The Lakers must take care of these three areas, and if they do, they can come to within one win of a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Continue to contain Curry and Klay Thompson
After Thompson went off for 30 points and eight 3-pointers in Game 2, he struggled on Saturday, going just 5-of-14 from the field and 3-of-9 from downtown and scoring a pedestrian 15 points. Curry shot well from beyond the arc in Game 3, but he was held to 23 points. In addition, he managed only three assists after dishing off a dozen dimes in Game 2.
The two guards are the only players on the Warriors’ roster who can really hurt L.A. in a big way. If it manages to keep them in check once again, it would go a long way toward helping it win again.
Anthony Davis must be great again
So far in these playoffs, Davis hasn’t scored over 20 points in back-to-back games. Breaking that trend is essential to the Lakers’ chances in Game 4, not to mention the rest of the postseason.
Davis may not need to score 30 points, but he at least needs to be effective and efficient offensively while maintaining his dominance defensively and on the boards.
Have a sense of urgency
Game 4 will tell the basketball world plenty of what these new-look Lakers are made of.
Will they maintain the intensity, aggression and urgency they had on Saturday, or will they look somewhat fat and happy, like they did in their Game 2 loss?
Fortunately for them, they will have their home crowd behind them again, so they will have absolutely no excuse to not come out with a vengeance.