Lakers, Warriors share global appeal, superstar talent, but Game 1 shows their contrast in playstyles

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By Webdesk

SAN FRANCISCO — Championship pedigree. Superstar talent. Celebrity fanbases. On the surface, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors aren’t that different. Yes, the Lakers have a much richer and deeper history of winning, but over the past decade it’s hard to argue that the Warriors haven’t come at least close to the Lakers’ equal in terms of prominence and traction with the global NBA fan base.

It’s the reason we’ve only talked about Lakers vs. Warriors, LeBron James vs. Steph Curry, SoCal vs. NorCal. Game 1 lived up to the hype, and then some, as the Lakers staved off a late Warriors run to take a 117-112 win, stealing home field advantage.

Anthony Davis was otherworldly — pounding, finessing and pirouetting on his way to 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in nearly 44 minutes. Curry only had 13 points on 14 shots in the first three quarters before more than doubling his total in an electric lock frame to finish with 27 points. James never seemed to really assert himself offensively, but still scored 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, a credit to his ability to win by a bum foot even on an “off night” at age 38.

Davis joined Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Shaquille O’Neal as the only Lakers to ever score at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a playoff game.

“He continues to show why he is one of the best players we have in this league,” James said after the victory over Davis. “It’s a treat for us to have such a dynamic player who can not only go out and give you 30 and 20, but also control the paint defensively, switch the guards and give you five assists as well.”

However, what stood out during a tense Game 1 was that despite all the similarities between the two franchises, these versions of the Lakers and Warriors are diametrically opposed in terms of basketball style.

The Warriors made 21 three-pointers. The Lakers made six.

The Lakers shot 29 free throws. The Warriors shot six.

The Lakers shot 55 percent on their 2-point attempts. The Warriors shot 42 percent.

While Golden State shined early on with its ball-heavy, read-and-react, deep-shooting offense, the Lakers responded with an old-fashioned bully ball as Davis scored 14 points in the first quarter with 7-for-8 shooting, with every attempt on one comes in the paint.

If the Warriors are an impromptu jazz concert, the Lakers are a booming track of booming, metronomic bass — steady and unrelenting. It didn’t help that the Warriors had just come off a seven-game jazz fest with essentially a copy of their offense in the Sacramento Kings. It must have looked like the Lakers were playing a different sport.

“Definitely an adjustment, completely different styles of play,” said Warriors center Kevon Looney, who scored a career-high 23 rebounds on Tuesday, his fourth 20-plus rebound appearance in his last six games. “The Kings offense is very similar to ours. Lakers play a little bit differently. So definitely a quick turnaround for me.”

If you saw the Game 1 score with the final score brushed off, you would be convinced that the Warriors won the game. They only had eight turnovers, generally a telltale sign that Golden State has played well. They shot 40 percent from 3-point range. They collected more offensive rebounds than Los Angeles. That’s essentially the success formula Steve Kerr has been preaching since day one of the playoffs. Not to mention Jordan Poole, who was nearly unplayable at times during the Sacramento series, scored 21 points and six assists on 6-for-11 3-point shooting and was a team-high plus-seven in his 30 minutes.

However, there is another focus where Golden State failed miserably: keeping the Lakers off the free throw line. The 29 to 6 disparity is so glaring it begs Golden State fans to complain about the one on duty. But really, they should be complaining about Davis, who instilled the fear of God in every warrior who dared take the lane, forcing them to reconsider or hit the ball into oblivion. Perhaps most impressively, he did all of this while committing just two personal fouls, resulting in the minuscule Golden State number from the line.

“It’s a little misleading. You feel like you look good getting over the top and he gets a finger on it,” Curry said of Davis. “You can’t be stubborn thinking you can just go through there. You still have to be able to ride and put pressure on the rim, but you can do it creatively.”

On the other hand, the Lakers’ propensity for the charity streak certainly topped the scouting report — they were the runaway leader in free throws per game during the regular season — and yet even the Warriors admitted that many of the offenses they committed could have been avoided, an area they need to clean up for Thursday’s Game 2.

These two teams know who they are, which should help make for a fantastic series. What the Lakers make at the free throw line, the Warriors can more than make up for on 3-pointers, where they led the league in tries and attempts per game while finishing second in percentage during the regular season.

The dream NBA second round game has come true between THE major NBA franchises of the past two decades, and yet they couldn’t be more different. It provides plenty of drama, constant tweaking, and all the star power you could ask for. Neither team will change its DNA, so it’s just a matter of whose style will prevail over the course of a seven-match series.

“The most important thing for us, again, is not to get happy, to stay humble, to respect our opponent, but also to know that there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said after the game. “It’s not the first – not the first with the best performance individually. We just have to keep stacking, keep stacking for days, keep coming and put our best foot forward.”

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