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A.D.-less Lakers clinging to 9th place in West after key loss to Warriors

LeBron James has 33 points, but Golden State shoots 26 for 41 from 3-point range and capitalizes on Anthony Davis’ absence for a 134-120 win to move within a half-game of the Lakers for ninth and secure the head-to-head tiebreaker

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry shoots in front of Lakers guard Austin Reaves (15) and forward LeBron James (23) during the first half on Tuesday night at Arena. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry shoots in front of Lakers guard Austin Reaves (15) and forward LeBron James (23) during the first half on Tuesday night at Arena. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

LOS ANGELES — The stakes for the Lakers in Tuesday night’s marquee matchup against the Golden State Warriors were clear.

Win and they’d control their fate to secure at least the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, with the possibility of moving up the standings with a strong close to the season. Lose and they’d be dependent on external help to avoid finishing the regular season in 10th place.

The latter are the circumstances the Lakers (45-35) now face after their 134-120 loss to the Warriors (44-35), their final home game of the regular season.

“We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Coach Darvin Ham said. “We gotta get our bootstraps together and get back on the drawing board, look at the film and try to make the best of these last two games.”

The Warriors, who made 26 of their 41 3-point shots – including an astonishing 16 of 23 from Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – moved within one-half game of the Lakers in the standings. Golden State now holds the head-to-head tiebreaker despite the regular-season series ending tied at 2-all because the Warriors have a better in-division win-loss record. That gives them the inside track to home-court advantage if the teams meet in a potential 9-10 play-in game next week.

LeBron James, who has been dealing with flu-like symptoms for the last few days and missed Sunday’s home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, tried to will the Lakers to a victory despite being under the weather, recording 33 points (14-for-22 shooting), 11 assists and seven rebounds in 35 minutes.

“Bron was phenomenal going through what he’s been through the last 48 hours,” Ham said. “He came out and gave his all. We had some good looks that didn’t go down. Shots we normally make, it’s a make-or-miss league. He did everything in his power to try to will the team back to a win. And it just didn’t work out, we fell short.”

Austin Reaves had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Rui Hachimura added 20 points (7-for-21 shooting), 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. D’Angelo Russell struggled to 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

James arrived at the arena a little an hour before tipoff and didn’t go through an on-court warmup on the team’s home court.

“Just tried to get as much rest as I could,” James said. “Stay hydrated as much as I could. I came in Sunday for my normal prep day for the Minnesota game and it started to get worse as the minutes went down. So I just went home. And pretty much [Tuesday] was like one of the first days I was able to get out of the room, get out of the bed and feel a little bit of energy. And I guess well enough to be able to come here and try to help the team.”

But the challenge of beating the Warriors, who have won eight of their last nine games, without Anthony Davis was too difficult for the Lakers to overcome. Davis sat out due to the aftereffects (headache, nausea) of being hit in the head by Minnesota’s Kyle Anderson in the Lakers’ loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday.

“We know we’re as good as any team in the league when we’re whole – and when we’re not, we’re not,” James said. “It’s hard for us to make up, especially having a guy like A.D. not playing. It’s almost pretty much impossible to make up for what he provides for our ballclub, both offensively and defensively.”

The Lakers missed a chance to move into eighth place past struggling Sacramento (45-34), which blew a big second-half lead and lost to Oklahoma City. And now the Lakers need outside help to ensure they don’t fall further down the standings.

If the Warriors win their final three regular-season games, then they’ll jump ahead of the Lakers in the standings even if the Lakers win their final two games on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

The Warriors, led by Thompson’s 27 points (10-for-16 shooting) and Curry’s 23 points (7-for-9 shooting), eight assists and seven rebounds, controlled the game from the outset.

Their 63.4% shooting from behind the arc is an NBA record for any team with at least 40 attempts, and the Warriors’ 26 3-point baskets are the most any Lakers team has ever allowed in a single game.

“They had guys step up and make shots,” Ham said. “It’s a make-or-miss league, and it is what it is. It’s a tough loss for sure. They put a lot of pressure on your defense, not having A.D. back there as just our conductor, just communicating and moving around, obviously very tough.”

The Warriors made 12 of their first 17 3-point attempts, and they shot 20 for 32 from behind the arc in the first three quarters overall.

Green (15 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) made five first-half 3-pointers to help the Warriors lead by double-digits for most of the first half. Andrew Wiggins had 17 points.

“Tip your cap to them,” James said. “You go out with a game plan and they exploit the gameplan, you tip your cap. And [Green] definitely messed with our game plan with him shooting the ball the way he did in the first half. But a team makes 26 3s, it’s gonna be hard to beat them.”

The Warriors scored 10 consecutive points in the final 1:23 of the third quarter to open a 17-point lead. The Lakers cut the deficit to single digits multiple times during the game, but 106-98 was the closest they got in the fourth.

Even after a decade as the coach of a scoring machine, Warriors coach Steve Kerr can still be impressed by his Big Three.

“I didn’t feel like we played that well, but we made a million 3s,” Kerr said. “The ball was going in, but I didn’t think we were sharp. A lot of possessions where we weren’t just quite locked in and we were a little bit disjointed, but the ball kept going in. … To shoot 63% from 3, that’s crazy.”

Davis isn’t in the concussion protocol, Ham said, but the All-Star big man missed a key game after largely avoiding serious injuries all season for the first time in a half-decade.

The Lakers fell to 2-4 without Davis this season, not counting two losses in which he played only the first quarter due to head blows.