BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Anybody worried about the Warriors having a letdown prior to their marquee Christmas Day matchup against Cleveland was rather quickly put at ease during the Dubs 113-106 win over Los Angeles Friday night at Oracle.
The up-and-coming young Lakers (11-19) have played the Warriors tough this season, pushing them in both early-season games in LA, including forcing overtime in this past Monday’s match up. But on Friday night they came out flat against the defending champions before stunning the crowd with a huge comeback from a 23 point deficit to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston and Zaza Pachulia were still sidelined, but Golden State, bolstered by the return of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, jumped out to a 61-44 halftime lead.
Seemingly cruising midway through the third quarter with a 71-48 lead, the Lakers ripped off a 41-17 run to take the lead with just under eight minutes go in the game following a three pointer by Julius Randle, who provided LA with a significant spark off the bench with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
L.A.’s lead lasted all of 17 seconds before former Laker Nick Young put the Warriors back on top to stay by converting a field goal and free throw. The outcome remained in doubt until the final minute of the unexpectedly exciting game, but Golden State’s depth and experience proved too much for their neighbors from the south.
The win, their 11th straight, improved the Warriors record to 26-6 and pushed them past Houston for the best record in the league for the first time this season.
Kevin Durant led the way with 33 points, five rebounds and five assists while rookie Jordan Bell had another solid start with 20 points and 10 boards, both career highs. Klay Thompson chipped in 16 while Draymond Green, in his first game back since being sidelined by a sore shoulder added 13 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for Bell’s continued rapid maturity to playing at the NBA level. “It didn’t shock me. I was waiting to play him with KD and Draymond. They were really good. Jordan had a huge game. He was really impressive and did a great job.”
Super rookie Kyle Kuzma led Los Angeles with 27 points and 14 rebounds, becoming the first Lakers rookie to score 25 or more points three games in a row since some guy named Jerry West in 1961. Lonzo Ball, who’s had a rough start to his young NBA career against most of the league, continued to impress against the Warriors with 24 points on 9-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds and five rebounds.
The Warriors return to action Saturday night with a 5:30 pm game against the Denver Nuggets before Monday’s battle with the Cavaliers.