Warriors guard Stephen Curry had a question for Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
With Lakers guard Shannon Brown at the free-throw line, Curry asked Bryant is he was worried. The Warriors, who lost by 33 points to the visiting Lakers earlier this season, were within six and had momentum.
"I told him," Curry recalled, " 'I'm new to the league. I can't read you yet.' He just looked at me (smiling) and said 'Nah.' "
Bryant's confidence was justified by a 124-121 Lakers win Monday that happened partly because he scored nine of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. But the Warriors certainly gave the Lakers reason to doubt.
Guard Monta Ellis' 3-pointer as the horn sounded bounced three times, teasing both teams and a season-best announced crowd of 20,038 into thinking it would drop in the basket and force overtime.
It was a fitting end to a rough night for Ellis. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-23 shooting from the field, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
"It just wasn't my night," Ellis said, still smiling from shock after 11 assists, five steals and one turnover. "Nothing was going down. Nothing at all."
The Warriors (18-48) had a chance to upset the best team in the Western Conference despite being dominated inside. The Lakers' trio of big men — forward Pau Gasol, center Andrew Bynum, and forward Lamar Odom off the bench — combined for 62 points on 23-for-33 shooting
The Warriors stayed close thanks to 24 turnovers by the Lakers. They stayed close thanks to Curry, who scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. They stayed close because of a career game by center Chris Hunter, who totaled 22 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes.
"I got a couple of pick-and-rolls and got a couple of dunks early," Hunter said. "That got men in the flow."
It all was enough to put a scare into the Lakers. Well, maybe not a scare, let Bryant tell it. Shortly after Curry's query, the Lakers pulled away with a 20-9 run in the fourth quarter.
Curry had cut the Lakers' lead to 101-100 with 7:40 left in the game. But the Warriors managed just three baskets over the next five-plus minutes. Two free throws by Gasol put the Warriors down 121-109 with 2:00 left.
But moments later, Ellis stripped Bryant and knocked down a 3-pointer on the ensuing fast break. He followed that with a driving layup the next time down, capping a 12-2 run to cut the Warriors' deficit to 123-121 with 10.6 seconds left.
Then Bryant missed a free throw with 8.6 seconds left, leaving the Warriors down by three.
After a timeout, Curry — who at the time was 10-for-18 from the field, 5-for-8 from 3-point range — got an open look at a 3-pointer from the right wing. But he missed it.
"I wouldn't change a thing about that shot," said Curry, who also had nine assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers.
Ellis got the rebound and had Curry open on his left and guard Anthony Morrow open on his right. Ellis said all he saw was the clock, which had three seconds left. So he raced to the top of the circle, turned and hoisted his attempt at tying the game, momentarily taking away the breath of the entire arena.
Notes: The Warriors announced season-ticket holders in every seating category will get a price reduction for 2010-11. The Loyalty Pricing program, as it is being called, will cut prices between 8 and 28 percent. All season ticket holders who place a deposit for next season by April 12 will get the discount. ... The Warriors finished with more assists (29) than rebounds (25). ... The Warriors committed just five turnovers, their fewest in a game since March 30, 2005, at Milwaukee.