LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lonnie Walker scored all of his 15 points in a phenomenal fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied late to take a 3-1 series lead with a 104-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 on Monday night.
LeBron James scored 27 points and Anthony Davis had 23 points and 15 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who moved to the brink of an improbable trip to the Western Conference finals with their eighth consecutive home victory since March.
Los Angeles overcame Stephen Curry’s third career post-season triple-double down the stretch largely because of Walker, who has made a seismic impact in returning to the Lakers’ rotation in this series after the former starter was stuck on the bench in recent weeks.
Walker went 6 for 9 in the fourth quarter and hit the go-ahead jumper with 1:53 to play. Curry’s layup with 1:05 left trimmed the Lakers’ lead to one point, but Curry missed a long jumper and a 3-point attempt on Golden State’s next possession before Walker made two free throws with 15 seconds to play.
Davis then forced a jump ball in the waning seconds, and it went out of bounds off Curry with 1.3 seconds to play.
“We don’t win this game tonight without Lonnie Walker, that’s for sure,” James said. “As hard as this game was, it’s going to be even harder. We understand that. We know that.”
Curry had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in his 13th career triple-double for the defending champion Warriors, who will have to overcome a 3-1 series deficit for only the second time in franchise history to continue their NBA title defence. Golden State also did it in the 2016 Western Conference finals.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Gary Payton II scored a season-high 15 points in his first start of the season for Golden State, but Klay Thompson had his second straight quiet game in Los Angeles, scoring nine points in 41 minutes. Andrew Wiggins added 17 points for the Warriors, who made just 25 combined 3-pointers in their two games in Los Angeles after making 21 apiece in the first two games in San Francisco.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr switched to a three-guard starting lineup to affect the Los Angeles defence that held the Warriors to 97 points in Game 3, and the changes largely worked: Davis, who blocked 11 shots in the first three games, wasn’t able to protect the rim with the same ferocity when his defensive matchups required him to go out to the perimeter, and the Warriors capitalized with 52 points in the paint.
The Lakers compensated: They made all 20 of their free throws, and Austin Reaves added 21 points.
But they won with a gritty, timely effort by Walker, who picked up the Lakers’ slack when D’Angelo Russell scored just four points on 1-for-10 shooting after a strong performance in Game 3.
Curry secured the 13th triple-double of his career early in the fourth quarter, adding it to his post-season triple-doubles in the 2017 NBA Finals and again in 2019. But he missed nine of 10 3-point attempts spanning three quarters, and the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history finished 3 for 14 from distance.
The rivals split the series’ first two games last week in the Bay Area, and the Lakers followed up their 27-point loss in Game 2 with a 30-point thrashing of the Warriors in Game 3. Both teams shot poorly to begin Game 4, but Curry’s 17 points put Golden State ahead at the half.
The Warriors minimized Davis’ impact on defence after he dominated long stretches of the Lakers’ first nine playoff games this spring. After blocking 19 combined shots — 11 by Davis — in the first three games of this series, Los Angeles blocked just one shot in Game 4 — a majestic, swooping swat by James on a layup attempt by Curry in the fourth quarter.
Warriors: Payton’s only previous NBA start this season was for Portland on Feb. 8. He started two playoff games for Golden State last year before signing a three-year deal in the summer with the Trail Blazers, who traded him back to the Warriors in February. Payton’s return was slowed by a core muscle injury. … Kevon Looney started Game 1 against Los Angeles, while JaMychal Green started Game 2 and Game 3.
Lakers: In the first quarter, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — who was courtside — for the most two-point baskets in NBA playoff history. Game 4 was James’ 276th career post-season game, while Abdul-Jabbar played in 237. James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the top scorer in NBA history in February. … Jack Nicholson returned to his courtside seats for the second time in their last three home games. The Lakers’ 86-year-old superfan headlined another celebrity-studded crowd including Chris Pratt, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, Dave Chappelle, Dustin Hoffman, Kim Kardashian, Colin Jost and Flea.
Greg Beacham, The Associated Press