All season long, the NBA's been looking for answers. How do you stop the rampaging machine that is the Golden State Warriors? The solution was right there in front of our faces the whole time: a steady diet of Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Bass.
At no point in NBA history had a team as good as Golden State, who entered Sunday at 55-5, played a team as bad as the Los Angeles Lakers, who came in with a record of 12-51, this late in the season. The Warriors were favored by 18 points, making them the biggest road favorite in the NBA in 23 years. But you know what they say: on any given Sunday, even a fundamentally bad team can turn in a gem, and even a historically great one can lay an egg.
The Warriors looked sluggish from the jump in a Sunday matinee after an off day in Los Angeles, and the Lakers took advantage, outscoring the defending champs 38-28 in a deciding second quarter and keeping them at bay after halftime to score a 112-95 win that goes down as arguably the biggest upset in NBA history.
In a battle with reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry and All-Star Klay Thompson, it was the Lakers' young backcourt that carried the day, with Jordan Clarkson scoring a game-high 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting and rookie D'Angelo Russell adding 21 points with five assists, four steals and three rebounds. The young guns led seven Lakers in double figures, with Julius Randle bulling his way to a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double and Bass chipping in an efficient 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting with seven boards and three blocks.
The 32-year-old Huertas — whose rookie NBA campaign has been much more notable for his penchant for lowlight-reel maneuvers than for the sort of daring playmaking panache that made him a star for the Brazilian national team and FC Barcelona of Spain's ACB league — added 10 points on six shots and nine assists against just one turnover in 27 1/2 minutes. With the Warriors attempting to make a late comeback, Huertas made play after play, capped by this sweet lob for a dunk by rookie big man Larry Nance Jr. that put the Lakers up 18 with 6:11 left:
Kobe Bryant added 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting in 24 minutes, but sat out the entire fourth quarter to rest his ailing shoulder. In a major reversal of fortune, Clarkson and Russell combined to shoot 7-for-13 from 3-point land, while the vaunted Splash Brothers made just one of their 18 triple tries.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had their worst combined 3-pt shooting game as teammates pic.twitter.com/1SblRnowg2— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 6, 2016
That awful long-distance shooting from the league's top two 3-point producers underscored a dismal overall beyond-the-arc outing by Golden State, who were without key reserve Andre Iguodala for the second time in three games. The Warriors shot just 4-for-30 from deep, the worst performance of the Steve Kerr era and the kind of marksmanship that'd make James Harden blanch.
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Curry led the Warriors with 18 on 6-for-20 shooting, while Thompson added 15 on 7-for-20 shooting. Draymond Green neared a triple-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but committed a team-high seven turnovers in 32 1/2 minutes; Golden State coughed it up 20 times as a team, leading to 22 Laker points. The Warriors are now 3-4 when facing a double-digit halftime deficit this season and 0-5 when trailing after three quarters. All six of their losses have come away from Oracle Arena, and five have been by at least 10 points,
Despite the stunning and embarrassing loss to a hard-charging Lakers team playing for little more than ping-pong balls, the 55-6 Warriors remain ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the highest regular-season win total in league history. Michael Jordan and company were 54-7 through 61 games back then and, as multiple folks have noted, they were not immune to this sort of loss themselves.
So, yes: this sort of thing can happen, and it has happened before. It's still really, really surprising, though ... and not just to those of us who don't happen to wear purple and gold for a living.
Kobe to roomful of reporters: I'm just as speechless as you guys are."— Bill Oram (@billoram) March 6, 2016
As for the Warriors' side of things, well, a picture says 1,000 words:
Couldn't have said it better myself.
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