Only, it’s not the type of impressive feat that James and the defending champions have been accustomed to since his arrival in 2018.
Playing their first game since erasing a 15-point deficit to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, an unfocused Lakers group blew a 19-point lead at Staples Center, with an ugly fourth quarter resulting in a 115-113 Warriors victory on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, Monday’s contest marked the first time since James has played with the Lakers that they have surrendered a lead of that size:
The Warriors trailed by as many as 19 points tonight. The Warriors have 29 comebacks of at least 15 points under Steve Kerr; since 2014-15, only the Raptors (31) have more.
The Lakers' 19-point blown lead is their largest in any game which LeBron James played. pic.twitter.com/wSWkoB8X6E
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 19, 2021
The Lakers jumped on the Warriors early, building the quick 19-point advantage. After various Warriors runs, the Lakers found themselves up by 17 in the third quarter and entered the final frame leading by 11. Despite playing slower and sloppier than usual, the Lakers had a 96 percent chance to win with just over 10 minutes remaining, per ESPN's Win Probability model.
Yet, the Warriors never quit while the Lakers went cold. The championship resolve of Curry (26 points) and Draymond Green boosted by a season-best performance from Kelly Oubre Jr. (23 points) and a stellar effort from Andrew Wiggins (18 points) overtook the relatively careless Lakers in the final minutes. Beginning at the eight-minute mark, L.A. went seven minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Curry capped off his squad's comeback with a signature 30-foot step-back over Anthony Davis to put the Dubs up four with just over one minute left:
Good God, Steph pic.twitter.com/xcPYerrh39
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) January 19, 2021
Golden State outscored the Lakers 34-21 in the fourth quarter.
After the first quarter, the Lakers' effort — like Dennis Schröder after not getting a flop whistle — left a lot to be desired.
“We got outplayed in the second half. We didn’t defend at the rate that we’ve been,” head coach Frank Vogel said in his postgame remarks. “We got hesitant on the offensive end. A little casual … which you can’t do against a team like that, with great firepower.”
All that said, James had a quality look at a game-winning 3 at the buzzer. The ball clanged off the rim — a fitting end to a 6-of-16 shooting night for James:
— Edward (@EdwardThof) January 19, 2021
“Obviously, it’s frustrating anytime you lose,” James said afterward. “Especially when you know you could have played better. And we know we can play much better. So, you learn from all of that and apply it to next game.”
Among other issues, James pointed to the Lakers' slow pace as a reason for their subpar performance. L.A. produced just four fast-break points. Still, James believes his team will learn from their mistakes.
“We had some tough breaks, some tough calls against us in the second half that kind of slowed our pace down,” James said. “We couldn’t get back into a rhythm … and they did a great job of countering that. Something we can learn from. And it’s always great to have games like that.”
James specifically expressed dismay at a late-game travel call on him, which was followed by a no-call on a clutch Green basket after he slid his pivot foot:
mind boggling that the refs would see the clear LeBron travel, and then miss the even clearer Draymond travel. pic.twitter.com/M6gzX2DM4F
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 19, 2021
LeBron on frustration w/ traveling calls (question by @billoram): "It's so funny because the very next play Draymond gets into the lane & slides his foot & it's not called & the same official called me for the travel is right there on the play & told me he didn't travel…" pic.twitter.com/7kf45F6Rav
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) January 19, 2021
Davis also shot 6-of-16 and was irked by his team’s shabby execution, effort, and attention to detail for the final three quarters.
“They were making tough shots, we stopped playing defense … had a lot of turnovers late that we could have avoided … It was all controllable,” Davis said.
Like James, Davis didn't want to make too big of a deal of the unusual loss.
“We know we’re a good team,” he said. “We know teams are gonna play their best against us. But the way we lost we don’t like … It’s one that we for sure should have won.”
The defeat snapped L.A.’s five-game winning streak and dropped the Lakers to 11-4 on the season, still tops in the league. Notably, all four losses this season have come at the eerily silent Staples Center. The Lakers are undefeated (7-0) away from home.
“There’s no fans, so the home crowd isn’t there to get the home team amped up when they go on a run,” Davis noted. “There's no energy in the arena for the home team like there usually is.”
Perhaps fortunately then, the Lakers will have a chance to regroup and recharge on the road. The Lakers will embark on a season-long seven-game swing beginning on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks in an empty Fiserv Forum (4 p.m. PT).