A pair of elite scorers went toe-to-toe at Oracle Arena: Warriors guard Monta Ellis against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who Ellis said is the best in the league.
The two averaged a combined 50.1 points coming into the game. Wednesday, they totaled 77.
Bryant got the better of Ellis. Not just because Bryant finished with a game-high 39 points. But because Bryant scored 17 points in the final 5:49 of the game to get the win, 115-110 over the Warriors.
It was Golden State's 12th straight loss to the Lakers, the sixth straight at home. So far, the Warriors are 1-2 on this 22-game stretch they have deemed vital to their season. Fortunately for them, their next five games are against teams with losing records, with four of the contests being home encounters.
"We are showing we can compete against some of the best teams in the league," coach Keith Smart said. "We've shown we can do that. I said earlier, if we can take care of the basketball, we will have a chance every night to win."
Ellis, who missed the past two practices with flu-like symptoms, finished with 38 points on 15-for-26 shooting. But he had just seven points in the fourth quarter, missing five of his eight shots. Ellis played all 48 minutes. Over the last half of the final period, if he wasn't facing a trap he had a bigger and fresher Bryant blanketing him all over the court.
Bryant started the fourth quarter on the bench. Once he checked back into the game, at the 6:37 mark, it was obvious he was in take-over mode. He had the energy to do so because the Lakers relied heavily on their interior players.
Lakers big men Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom combined for 55 points and 34 rebounds.
"We knew what they had the advantage on," the Warriors' David Lee said. "They have an advantage at every position. I watch a lot of their games that are on late. There is not one team in the league that has the same size except Boston when they're healthy. With that being said, I thought we competed well."
Ellis didn't have as much help as Bryant. Forward Dorell Wright had 27 points and seven rebounds. Lee had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Point guard Stephen Curry finished with 15 points and 10 assists. But it wasn't enough. Once Bryant checked in, it was on.
The game turned into a heated contest with a frenetic pace as each team traded high-pressure baskets, with a raucous crowd as background music.
Ellis knocked down a pull-up 3-pointer to put the Warriors up 89-87 with 6:14 to play. But Bryant answered with a 3-pointer.
Golden State trailed 97-93 after three-point play by Bryant at the 3:10 mark. After a putback by Curry, Bryant dropped in a jumper over Ellis, who responded with a nifty reverse layup in traffic. The Warriors trailed 99-97 with 2:17 left.
Bryant then found forward Ron Artest for an open 3-pointer in the corner. But the Warriors came right back with a mid-range jumper from Lee.
Center Dan Gadzuric followed by blocking Bryant's floater in the lane, leading to a 24-second shot clock violation, giving the Warriors the ball with 1:42 left down 102-99.
But Curry missed his 3-pointer from the corner, and Bryant followed by knocking down his 3-pointer at the other end. Game over.
"Nothing you can do about that," said Ellis, who defended Bryant -- mostly one-on-one -- in the fourth quarter. "He made shots."
L.A. Clippers (13-24) at Warriors (15-23), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA
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