The second game of the new NBA season was a battle of Northern versus Southern California. The North would prevail, as Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors defeated LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
One day after the game, it wasn’t surprising to hear Magic Johnson still picking the Lakers as one of the final two Western Conference teams left by season’s end. But the shock came from Magic also picking the Dubs as the team destined to face the Purple and Gold late in the postseason.
The Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers
Lots of the analysis after Tuesday night was about the Lakers losing 121-114. But the Warriors also won the game thanks to a collective effort from youngsters and veterans.
The Warriors were down by as many as 10 points late in the third quarter before things turned around. Golden State got hot while LA went cold, outscoring the home team 47 to 30 for the remainder of the game. At the heart of that was a 24-6 run when the Dubs came back, took the lead, and maintained it for good.
Unlike many other Warriors victories, Curry was far from his best. The two-time MVP recorded a 21-point triple-double, but went 5-for-21 from the field and hit just two out of eight three-pointers. But thanks to 20 points from Jordan Poole as well as 15 each from Damion Lee and Nemanja Bjelica, Golden State overcame strong showings from both James and Anthony Davis.
“The fact that everybody who was on the floor contributed in a meaningful way kind of speaks to our depth and how we want to play going forward,” Curry said after the game. “We’re excited about that and it’s good to be 1-0.”
Magic Johnson predicts a Warriors-Lakers WCF
The 62-year-old Johnson made an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Today the day after Golden State’s upset. He shared his concerns about the Lakers but also gave some recognition to the Warriors, particularly their role players.
“Let’s give Golden State a lot of credit [to] those young guys without Steph,” Magic said. “Because Steph was on the bench in the fourth quarter when they made their run. And they got some guys who can come in and fill it up. We saw Poole, we saw [Otto] Porter. These guys coming in, they got a great bench.”
Magic then stated how he believes the Lakers and Warriors, the last two NBA champs from the Western Conference, are destined to meet late in the playoffs.
“And I will say this. When Klay [Thompson] gets back, and that young center gets back, [James] Wiseman, they gon’ be the team with the Lakers. I think that’s the Western Conference Championship right there.”Magic Johnson
The Lakers defeated the Warriors 103-100 in their play-in game back in May. However, you’d have to go back to 1991, when Magic was still playing, for the last time these franchises went head-to-head in a playoff series.
What is the Golden State Warriors’ ceiling?
The five-year, three-title Warriors dynasty ended in 2019 following a Finals loss and Kevin Durant‘s departure for the Brooklyn Nets. They spiraled to a 15-50 record the next season but improved to 39-33 in 2020-21. Now, there’s reason to believe Golden State can contend once again.
As Johnson mentioned, the Warriors still aren’t at full strength. Klay Thompson is recovering from a torn right Achilles suffered last offseason, approximately 17 months after tearing his ACL in the NBA Finals. As Thompson aims to get back to action, second-year center James Wiseman underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in April. If all goes well, he should be back on the court before by the end of the calendar year.
However, Golden State showed it can still be a threat without two of its five projected starters. Poole and Lee will play a key role on offense, giving Curry some much-needed assistance. The Warriors also have veterans Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins to fill out a well-balanced team.
The Warriors are better than expected and should receive a boost from Thompson and Wiseman’s returns. At that point, Magic’s take of Golden State meeting the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals might not be so bold after all.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.