The Los Angeles Lakers have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. In a thrilling encounter, LeBron James starred for the Lakers with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Stephen Curry recorded his third playoff triple-double with 31 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and three steals for the Warriors. However, the biggest contributor for the Lakers was Lonnie Walker IV who set a playoff career high with 15 points, all coming in the fourth quarter on 6-of-9 shooting. Walker’s impressive fourth-quarter rally sparked the Lakers, helping to keep their offense alive, almost outscoring Golden State (17 fourth-quarter points) by himself.
The Lakers’ coach, Darvin Ham, took a bold decision to reinsert Walker into the rotation during Game 3, which has proved to be a series-shifting adjustment. The LeBron-Steph chess match was also an intriguing aspect of the game, as we’ve seen the two giants battle each other for years in the NBA Finals. James called up whichever player Curry was defending and had him screen for James, drawing a switch from Curry. The Warriors tried to pre-switch, but James’ patience and relentlessness eventually ensured Curry switched onto him by the end of roughly a dozen or so of the Lakers’ fourth-quarter possessions. The results were often James baskets, Curry fouls, and/or kick-out passes to Walker, Austin Reaves and Dennis Schroder. This tried-and-true offensive wrinkle that James and the Lakers were sitting on was finally unveiled when they needed to survive a close game.
The Warriors struggled in the fourth quarter, scoring only 17 points and blowing a seven-point lead during their most consequential 12-minute stretch of the season. It was actually Thompson and Curry who shot them out of it in the closing minutes, taking two extremely difficult 3s in the final two minutes that both missed. With 20 seconds left, Curry opted against attacking Anthony Davis in isolation on the drive and took a step back 30-footer that missed.
In terms of usable depth, Jordan Poole’s slump is deepening, and Coach Steve Kerr only played six players in the fourth quarter: Curry, Thompson, Gary Payton II, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Moses Moody. Kerr doesn’t appear to trust anyone else in this certain matchup.
The Lakers’ home-court dominance has been a significant advantage so far, with the team winning all six of their postseason matchups at Crypto.com Arena. Unless they make the NBA Finals and face the Miami Heat, they won’t have home-court advantage in any series. It’s difficult to win four playoff series starting on the road. However, their success at home has made their job easier on the road, as they’ve just needed to steal one game to advance.
Of course, it’s always possible for the Warriors to come back from 3-1 down when two of the final three games are in their home arena. They’ll be favored in Game 5, and if they deliver a powerful punch back in Chase Center, where they’ve been dominant this season, the momentum could shift. Game 6, if it goes that far, would be about as difficult a test as this core has faced. The Lakers crunched the Grizzlies in Game 6 to close them out a couple of weeks ago. However, this is a formula the Warriors have followed once before. They were once down 3-1 to the Thunder, and they handled the adversity by winning three games in a row, including two on the road, to advance to the NBA Finals.
Overall, the Lakers’ win in Game 4 was an impressive display of resilience and a testament to their ability to come