A sold-out crowd of 19,914 basketball fans erupted in a standing ovation as soon as the words flashed on the stadium monitors during the second quarter of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers game last Monday. The Oklahoma City Thunder had just lost to the Dallas Mavericks, automatically securing the Warriors’ third consecutive playoff spot.
That special moment was one of many highlights that day for Golden State. The Warriors beat the Lakers 108–105, behind Klay Thompson’s 26 points. And their ability to hang on for the win after the mid-game good news reflected the team’s mindset: they can’t relax anytime soon.
“We appreciate the fans, and it was a great moment. But now we move on from that and try to reach our bigger goals,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green.
This new attitude underscores just how far the franchise has come. When the Warriors made the playoffs in 2012, former head coach Mark Jackson started tearing up.
“It made sense to celebrate a couple of years ago, being the first time in a long time. Now, we expect to be in the playoffs,” said head coach Steve Kerr.
Although L.A. has one of the worst records this season (17-50), they gave the Warriors (56-13), the best team in the division, an intense fight. Five different Lakers players scored at least 15 points and the team shot an impressive 53.3 percent from behind the arc.
“We knew if we didn’t come in here and play our best game, it would be a long night for us,” said Lakers guard Wayne Ellington, who led his team with 17 points..
As late as 4:42 left, the game was tied, 95-95. With a minute to go, the Warriors were ahead by one point, and the teams traded free throws to close the game, with the Warriors making all theirs to go ahead by three. In addition to Thompson’s 26, Stephen Curry had 19 points and nine assists.
With Kobe Bryant out with a shoulder injury, the Lakers played surprisingly well short-handed. Still, the Warriors’ victory contributed to their winning ten of their last eleven games. Having clinched, Golden State is now on a definite roll heading into the playoffs.
For more on the Warriors, check out Kid Reporter Ryan Woon’s post about why he thinks Golden State could make a championship run this season.
Photos: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images, Manat Kaur