Lakers take 2-1 lead over Warriors with dominant victory in Western semis

May 6, 2023, 9:07 PM

D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores in front of Jordan Poole #3 and Stephen Curry ...

D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores in front of Jordan Poole #3 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game three of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Arena on May 06, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James didn’t take a shot in the first quarter of Game 3 for the first time in his NBA-record 275 playoff appearances, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ home crowd rumbled with mild uncertainty each time he passed the ball instead.

Turns out James and his Lakers were just taking a while to warm up before they steamrolled the Golden State Warriors.

Anthony Davis had 25 points and 13 rebounds, a slow-starting James finished with 21 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, and the Lakers took a 2-1 lead in their second-round playoff series with a 127-97 victory Saturday night.

D’Angelo Russell hit five 3-pointers while scoring 21 points for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who remained unbeaten at home in the postseason with a strong defensive effort against the reigning NBA champions. Los Angeles seized control in the middle quarters, outscoring the Warriors 63-38 to turn Game 3 into a laugher.

“After that first quarter, guys just really turned it up,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They dialed up their competitiveness, and their communication was great. … We were just playing a really physical, forceful downhill game.”

James curiously didn’t shoot the ball until well into the second quarter, yet he still led several runs in the second and third quarters while Los Angeles pulled away. The 38-year-old also mixed in a handful of plays that defied his age and 20 years of NBA experience, making a deft spin move and blocking a shot on the other end shortly after he leaped the front row of fans and ran well up into the stands after making a deflection.

“That’s just who he has to be at this time of the year,” Ham said. “That’s why he’s a champion. The little things.”

Stephen Curry scored 23 points and Andrew Wiggins had 16 in a collective stinker for the Warriors, who committed 19 turnovers and never mounted a response to the Lakers on either end in the second half. Golden State went 13 for 44 on 3-pointers — making just 10 while the game was still competitive — after hitting 21 in each of the series’ first two games in San Francisco.

Game 4 is Monday night in Los Angeles.

Davis had an impressive bounce-back game under both baskets after contributing minimally in Game 2, blocking four shots and leading the Lakers’ latest strong defensive effort. Los Angeles has built its 16-5 run since March 17 on defense, and the Warriors couldn’t hit enough shots from the perimeter to counteract their disadvantages in size and athleticism.

“We locked in,” Russell said. “We just got stops, and it allowed us to creep back.”

Klay Thompson had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Warriors, but the rest of the roster beyond their top three scorers struggled mightily, combining for just 18 points before coach Steve Kerr pulled his starters with 9:11 to play. Draymond Green had two points in 23 minutes while playing with foul trouble.

“We had 26 assists and 19 turnovers,” Kerr said. “That’s criminal. Those 19 turnovers turned into 27 points. They shot 20 more free throws than we did. So if you put all those numbers together, this was a Lakers game.”

The Warriors were held under 100 points for only the fifth time in 92 games this season.

The rivals split two games in San Francisco to open the series, with the Warriors earning a 27-point blowout victory in Game 2 after dropping the opener.

But this much-anticipated playoff rematch between generational superstars James and Curry has featured more garbage time than memorable thrills in the past two games. After Ham sat down his stars before the fourth quarter of Game 2, Kerr pulled the plug while facing a 26-point deficit early in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

“You’re on the road, you’re going against a great defensive team, and you know the crowd is going to be into it,” Kerr said. “Got to be more poised than we were.”

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