The Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors played a very playoffesque non-playoff game Wednesday night, a glorious old mid-’90s punch-up in which the Warriors got the standard evening's work out of Stephen Curry (37 points, 23 shots) but the last moment was saved for Popeye James and his 35-foot kickback jumper. There was agonized yapping from all corners, there was paint-scraping from end line to end line, the most important development ended up being the thoroughly unmentioned Wesley Matthews, and everyone would sign up for six more of those in a heartbeat.
Only, seven-seeds have never before played eight-seeds in anything worth paying attention to, and there won't be six more of these, or really any more of these. By the Lakers drifting through an injury-fueled second half of the season and the Warriors saving their Curryest Curryosity for the final 25 games, the two teams met last night in a spectacular collision that ended 103-100, and then ended.
Oops, sorry to interrupt. Sandy Alcantara just threw a no-hitter. Now back to basketball.
The Lakers proved themselves both indomitable and vulnerable at the same time, because they are capable of having a 32/27/63 shooting slash line in the first half of any game and still rumbling through to victory, though not without difficulties. Their great height advantage over the runty but game Warriors actually had to be abandoned down the stretch for the clever understatedness of Matthews and Alex Caruso, whose principal job used to be looking like Saturn from the neck up. The Warriors did not play scared, but they're your prototypical eight-seed—good enough in the right matchup but with some dents in the bodywork.
In short, the Lakers advance, the Warriors still might, but their true combined appeal was in playing each other, and that's shot now unless we have sadly misgauged the historical role of seven- and eight-seeds, let alone the relative strength of the Western Conference.
Uh-oh. News just in: Joe Biden just threw a no-hitter. Details when they come in.
Now you might come away from last night's game thinking that the Warriors actually looked good enough to go some ways in this postseason, and they might. But they might also have given the Lakers the groin shot they needed to find playoff urgency. L.A. did so with 10 second-half steals and 15 forced turnovers and nine more shots while reducing the Warriors' offense to Curry some Andrew Wiggins strays. They lost the first half by 13 on merit and won the second half by 16 on brute force.
Oh, and we must remind you again of James' pick-the-middle-rim-and-hope-for-the-best game-winner, which was the correct punctuation to a night in which the Warriors and Lakers both validated the play-in concept and mocked the traditional value of seeding.
And all that was before James and Anthony Davis combined on a no-hitter, just after Gwyneth Paltrow's no-hitter and just before Medina Spirit's no-hitter. It was a full evening, to be sure.