Three Things to Know: Game 3 – Lakers vs. Warriors 5-6-23

After suffering a blowout loss in Game 2, the Lakers (1-1) return back to Los Angeles to take on the Warriors (1-1) in Game 3 of their Western Conference playoff series. The game tips at 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC and 710 ESPN radio.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

In the aftermath of the Lakers' Game 1 win, Anthony Davis' dominance took the headlines, as he posted numbers -- 30 points and 23 rebounds (not to mention the five assists and four rebounds) -- rarely seen in the history of the NBA and, within the Lakers franchise, have only been achieved by franchise legends.

After Thursday's Game 2, Davis' play was again a talking point, but more because he was unable to establish a rhythm on his way to a 11-point, seven rebound night. This has followed somewhat of a trend for AD, whose scoring output has been up and down in an every-other-game way these playoffs.

After Game 2, Davis spoke about his offensive performance and expressed confidence it would be improve.

"I took all the same shots I took in Game 1. I just missed them," Davis said. "Elbow jumpers. Pocket passes to the floater. Same exact looks. Didn't shoot no shot that I didn't shoot in Game 1. Just missed them. That's all. We'll be better. I'll be better making those shots."

Draymond Green, who served as AD's primary defender for much of the game and received the majority of the credit for his decreased offensive production, also spoke about Davis' play and his own approach to defending him.

"You know, AD is a great player, and when you allow him to get to the spots he wants to get to, there's a reason he wants to get to those spots," Green said. "He's great at it, and he's not going to miss many. When you try to make him do things on our terms, make it a little bit tougher.

"Now in saying that, you can play that same defense and he can have a great game and that's why he's great and that's why he's been great for this long. But I think for us, we've just got to make them take tough contested shots. If you do the best you can do defensively, you have to live with the result."

Davis will try to prove that last part of Green's comments correct in Game 3. Sure, there are tweaks and adjustments that can be made to get AD the ball in more advantageous positions, but Green is an elite defender and is going to track him accordingly. At some point, AD will simply need to hit the shots he's taking, and as he said himself, he expects that he will in Game 3 -- and his history in these playoffs backs that up.

In the aftermath of Game 1, a lot was made of the free throw discrepancy between the two teams, but those numbers mostly reflected a game in which the Lakers looked to attack the paint while the Warriors were much more perimeter oriented. In Game 2, the difference in free throw attempts vanished which was a tribute to the Warriors walling off the paint much better and not allowing the Lakers to establish their presence down low.

Playoff basketball is often filled with buzzwords and cliches, but that's true for a reason: the players and coaches believe in these ideas as drivers towards winning (and losing) these sorts of high stakes games. For the Warriors, a common theme in the aftermath their victory was a change in the amount of force they played with.

"I thought we just played simple basketball, kept our turnovers down, moved the ball," Steve Kerr said. "Our guys were playing with a lot of force, a lot of aggressiveness but making good decisions within that aggression, and that's the key, can you find that balance."

Draymond Green concurred with his coach's assessment.

"We played with more force. We played with more force on both sides of the ball," Draymond said. "We met force with force on the defensive end and we were able to rebound the ball well and when you're not playing against a set defense every time down the court we fouled so much the last game and we were on the free throw line and it seemed like every play. That's tough."

Heading into Game 3, the onus is back on the Lakers to meet the physicality Green and the rest of the Warriors brought on both sides the ball in kind, but particularly when the Lakers are playing offense. Playing at home, with the energy and juice of the crown spurring them on, will help. As will the natural ebb and flow of a series where a loss often triggers a renewed sense of urgency -- just as the Warriors experienced in Game 2.

As much as we think of playoff basketball as being this constant shifting of ideas and schemes in order to stay one step ahead of your opponent, that's not entirely true. Yes, coaches will often succeed or fail in winning a game (and, ultimately, a series) based on the quality and responsiveness of their adjustments. But the idea of "changing for change sake" is not something most coaches endorse.

Rather, most coaches enjoy sticking to their plans as long as possible. And if something is working, they'll continue to do that, particularly if they're winning games. Related to this idea is that sometimes coaches understand that it's not about the scheme or the tactics being employed, but how well they're being executed that leads to their success or failure.

Now that the Lakers have lost a game, however, the question is how much they will tweak vs. how much they will rely on the players to execute the plan in place better than they did in Game 2. This is the balance of coaching in the playoffs.

For Coach Ham, then, a top priority is determining whether the Warriors' adjustments of putting Steph Curry on the ball more to run pick-and-rolls, playing more one-big lineups, and spacing the floor with more shooting requires drastic shifts in their defensive approach or not. And, if it does require big changes, what do those changes look like and how far do they go? Will they be variations on what they currently do or akin to bigger schematic overhauls? Will they involve the same personnel, or will they necessitate rotation changes?

By the time the Lakers eliminated the Grizzlies in Game 6, their schematic approach had not changed much, but their rotation and personnel groupings were very much different than the versions that played in the early part of the series. Coach Ham has similar questions to answer as this series vs. Golden State proceeds and we'll have our first glimpse into which direction he is leaning in Saturday's Game 3.