The Lakers, saved by the unexpected Lonnie Walker, untenable in the last quarter, snatched the Warriors (104-101) and are only one victory away from the Western Conference final, just like the Heat in the East, solid winner of the Knicks (109-101) Monday.
Golden State, outgoing champion, is close to the exit, New York is also back to the wall.
They will first have to win the fifth game on their floor on Wednesday, then the next two to hope to reverse a compromised situation. In the history of the league, this scenario has already happened: 13 times, a team trailing 3-1 has finally won 4-3, the most resounding feat remaining that of Cleveland, crowned champion in 2016 at the costs of Golden State.
At the time, LeBron James had known how to climb into the stratosphere to guide his Cavs there. Stephen Curry will have to imitate him, he who is already evolving at a very high level, as evidenced by his triple-double in the evening (31 pts, 14 assists, 10 rebounds). But the best three-point shooter in history was too clumsy (3/14) to improve his performance, also missing three attempts near the circle, something unusual for him and unacceptable for his team.
His Warriors also fell on a formidable “factor X” in the person of Lonnie Walker, author of all of his 15 points in the final period, and who changed everything for the Lakers who had counted 12 units behind in end of third quarter.
“A Boxing Fight”
“I told him +Lonnie, be ready. We will need you at some point+. He knew how to be ready when we called him. We wouldn’t have won this match without +LW+ tonight, that’s for sure”, greeted James (27 pts, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) still as dominant at 38 years old.
“He had a huge impact. Most of the time, that’s what happens in the playoffs. The game is close and then someone comes in, who is not expected to have an impact. The fourth game was Walker’s,” added Warriors coach Steve Kerr, looking dejected.
LA can also thank Austin Reaves, another sharp second knife who proved to be very valuable throughout (21 pts). Because Anthony Davis was intermittent by registering 19 of his 23 points in the first period (15 rebounds) and D’Angelo Russell was non-existent (1/10 in shots, 4 pts).
Above all, the Lakers did not let go, even under the battering of Golden State. “We’re a resilient team. We put up a fight. It’s a 48-minute match, a 12-round boxing match. We stayed up and got through it,” James summed up.
Frustration must still predominate in the ranks of the Warriors, who thought they would recover the advantage of the field by reaping the benefits of judicious tactical adjustments made by Steve Kerr, with the tenure of Gary Payton II (15 pts), Draymond Green being moreover in the shot (8 pts, 10 rbds, 7 assists), like a superb feint which opened the way to the basket.
In Miami, it was the combined efforts of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who got the better of those of Jalen Brunson to allow the Heat to confirm their break.
The first showed the example on both sides of the field (27 pts, 9/17 on shots, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks), seeming to have recovered from a twist in the right ankle a week ago. The second, not always at the party offensively in this series, was in the game this time (23 pts, 13 rebounds).
Kyle Lowry (15 pts) also contributed off the bench, the substitutes bringing 32 pawns in total, when those of the Knicks were on the contrary discreet (10 pts).
Still as generous in effort, Jalen Brunson finished top scorer (32 pts) and passer (11) of the match, but NY most often ran behind the score.
In his relay, RJ Barrett (24 pts) and Julius Randle (20 pts, 9 rebounds) certainly did not deserve, but the limits of the Knicks in attack appeared once again glaring.