Warriors on the road to recovery

NBA's worst team last season stun champs Lakers 115-113 for another statement win

LOS ANGELES • LeBron James has always been a clutch player, particularly when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. But on Monday, the Finals Most Valuable Player suffered his first regulation-time defeat in 284 National Basketball Association (NBA) home games when holding a double-digit lead going into the final period.

Stephen Curry sank a three-pointer with 67 seconds remaining and the Golden State Warriors forced James into an errant shot from beyond the arc at the horn to shade a 115-113 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Centre.

The NBA champions still hold the best record in the league at 11-4 but the team were disappointed to see their five-game winning streak come to an end.

"I think we just had some tough breaks, some tough calls against us in the second half that slowed our pace down," said James, who finished with 19 points. "We couldn't get back into a rhythm."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel added: "We got outplayed in the second half. We got hesitant on the offensive end, and a little casual at certain points in the game."

For the Warriors, the worst team in the NBA last season, this was another sign that they are putting the nightmare that was last year behind them.

Golden State beat championship contenders Los Angeles Clippers on Jan 8 and after defeating the Lakers despite trailing by as many as 19 points, they are now seventh in the Western Conference with a 7-6 record.

"We kept our composure. The second unit was amazing both halves," said Curry, who had a game-high 26 points.

"We got some momentum in the second half to give us a chance and carry us down the stretch. It was similar to the Clippers game. We've done it twice now, but want to get leads early."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr added: "The first half, we stunk it up. I like our fight and we started to get after it in the second. The second unit kept us in the game and the starters finished it."

In New York, the Brooklyn Nets shrugged off the continued absence of Kyrie Irving, missing his seventh straight game for "personal reasons", as they outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks, the top seeds for the past two seasons, 125-123.

James Harden became the first Nets player to score at least 30 points in each of his first two games with the team, collecting 34 points and 12 assists, while Kevin Durant added 30 points as the Nets (9-6) improved to fifth in the East. The Bucks (9-5) remain in second.

"We're still trying to find our way and we've still got room to improve, but it's a solid start," Durant said.

Harden added: "It's a huge win for us. This is our second game together and we haven't had one practice."

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led his team with 34 points, believes that it is difficult to stop the Nets now that they have two superstars in their line-up. He said: "This is what they do. They wake up, come to the game and they score 30.

"If you're not aggressive and you're not locked in against them, they're going to score 50."

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets-Washington Wizards game, originally set for today, became the 15th NBA game to be postponed since the start of the season after six Wizards players tested positive for Covid-19.

Washington last played on Jan 11 and since then, have not been able to put out a minimum eight players onto the court under NBA health and safety protocols.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2021, with the headline 'Warriors on the road to recovery'. Subscribe