Stephen Curry did everything he could on Monday night in Los Angeles.
But in the end, it was Lonnie Walker IV — yes, Lonnie Walker IV — who pushed the Lakers to a victory to reach the end of the Western Conference.
The Lakers fought Curry and the Golden State Warriors 104-101 in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series Monday night. Walker, after triggering a huge run to get the Lakers back into her in the fourth quarter, all of his 15 points fell in the last period.
“To him as young as he is, to him that he has this professionalism, that he will come out and stay ready when his number is called, we won’t win this game without Lonnie Walker tonight, that’s for sure,” LeBron James said on TNT after the victory.
The Warriors held only a three-point lead at half-speed on Monday night, thanks to a large 14-6 inventory to close the second quarter. Although both teams played a little run in the third, it was Curry who finished with 31 points and the Warriors who led at the end of the period. Curry even pulled out a wild hand for Donte Divincenzo to run a Lakers game in the late quarter.
But this leadership evaporates almost immediately to begin the fourth quarter. The Lakers opened the period on an 11-4 run, driven mainly by Walker, that things were connected immediately. The Lakers then stopped and narrowed the Warriors down to just one curry layup in the last three minutes of the game, while Walker and James beat them to victory.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life and manifesting it,” Walker said on TNT. “With care and mental perseverance, I had to be able to show what I could do.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Curry had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in his 13th triple career for the sixth-segment Warriors, who will have to overcome a 3-1 series deficit just for the second time in franchise history to continue his NBA title defense. Golden State also did it at the end of the 2016 Western Conference.
“It’s like it’s a 3-1 deficit. You go home, you do business, you get a win, and the momentum is back in your favor,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s all. … The Lakers did a great job of doing a service here, so now we have to go back and win at home and reverse the momentum.”
Warriors led by 12 at the end of the third quarter, but the Lakers chased the champions and ended up with Walker leading the way even James and Davis, who hugged Walker after the buzzer.
“The child is a beautiful child,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “He fell off the rotation without his own fault, but remained a professional. He kept up his spirits, kept up his good work, and he really kept working on his game every day, especially in these playoffs. When your mind is in the right place, your body follows.”
Gary Payton II scored 15 points in his first start of the season for Golden State, but Klay Thompson had his second silent game in Los Angeles, scoring nine points in 41 minutes. Andrew Wiggins added 17 points for the Warriors, who only scored 25-3 in their two games in Los Angeles after scoring 21 each in the first two games in San Francisco.
“We’re still positive,” Payton said. “We know we have them on the line. We have to run another race late, and you just create this space and opportunity.”
Kerr switched to a three-back starting lineup to influence the Los Angeles defense that held the Warriors 97 points in the third game, and major changes took place: Davis, who blocked 11 shots in the first three games, failed to secure the perimeter with the same brutality as defense games asked him out of bounds. And the Warriors got 52 points in the picture.
Lakers compensated: They made all of their 20 free throws, and Austin Reaves added 21 points.
But they won with Walker’s fierce, timely effort, who picked up the Lakers’ slack as D’Angelo Russell scored only four points in a 1-to-10 shot after a strong performance in Game 3.
Curry earned his 13th double in his career at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but he missed nine of 103 attempts to score in three quarters. The most three-point shooter in NBA history ended up with 3 out of 14 from a distance.