SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Back and forth they went, one-upping the other, two of the greatest to ever play each believing he could will his team to win. Stepback 3s, fadeaway jumpers, drives and dishes. Two overtimes.
LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry. At their finest.
And at the very end, James made a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds left to cap his triple-double of 36 points, career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists, outdueling Curry as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Golden State Warriors 145-144 on Saturday night.
“It’s something I’ll be able to talk about with my grandkids, talk about me being able to compete with one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” James said. “So hopefully I can be cool with my grandkids at that point, for sure.”
Curry danced through the paint for a layup that sent the game to overtime. He knocked down a 3-pointer high over Anthony Davis in the second overtime for a lead.
James scored the first points of a second extra session and found D'Angelo Russell the next time down for a 3.
“Every year we get to do this, the back-and-forth battles, all the Finals runs, to the playoffs last year, after the horn sounded tonight there was a little laugh of we can't like imagine a scenario where a game like tonight happens, his year, what, 21, and my year 15,” Curry said. “All the other guys in the league who have been doing it 15-plus years, KD (Kevin Durant), CP (Chris Paul), it's insane.
"You look forward to the battles, but you also appreciate the mutual respect of what it takes to keep doing what you're doing at this level because only a few people know how hard it is. I'm happy to be in that group.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham had to stay focused as he sat close-up to witness the greatness.
“Oh, man,” he exhaled afterward.
“Just trying to control myself first and foremost as a basketball fan,” he said. “They should be real happy in New York, this was a hell of a basketball game, a high-level basketball game. Two legends going back and forth, two great organizations. It was fun to be a part of. It’s just one of those wins where it showed our character. Our group is really coming together.”
Curry hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left in the second OT and sunk the one over Davis with 1:22 to go on the way to 46 points with a season-high nine 3s.
Russell connected from deep with 53 seconds left in the second OT and also hit another earlier in the period after also making two 3-pointers late in regulation on the way to 28 points.
James scored 12 points in the two OT periods and recorded his third triple-double of the season and 110th of his career. Davis added 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Klay Thompson hit a tying 3 with 5.9 seconds remaining in the initial overtime and another late in the second extra period before fouling out with 1:14 left in Golden State’s first double-OT game since a 143-141 victory against Atlanta on Jan. 2, 2023.
Davis returned after an injury scare in the third. He made a pair of free throws with 29 seconds to go in regulation, then missed the first of two with 14.7 seconds left — giving Golden State the ball down 118-116. Curry drove through the paint for a tying layup with just under 6 seconds left to force overtime.
These star-studded teams played another thrilling game after the Lakers beat the Warriors in a six-game Western Conference semifinals last year.
Los Angeles hit 38 of 43 free throws, while the Warriors attempted only 16 — and they didn't like that.
“I might comment on the free throws that they shot, but my mom is here right now and I want to be on my best behavior so I’m not going to comment on their 43 free throws to our 16,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I’m not going to comment on Steph shooting three free throws in 43 minutes.”
Curry notched his second straight game with six or more 3s and third in five and also his fifth consecutive game with 25 or more points. It was his third 40-point performance this season and 65th of his career.
James and Davis combined to shoot 14 for 19 in the first half and wound up 25 of 49 for the night and contributed to a 55-50 rebounding edge.
The Warriors scored a season high points and their 23 3-pointers were a season best. Golden State used its 15th starting lineup — with Draymond Green and Jonathan Kuminga on the floor for the opening tip together for the first time this season.
This was a second straight heartbreaking defeat for the Warriors after losing 134-133 to Sacramento on Thursday night in another 2023 playoff rematch. The Warriors eliminated the Kings in Game 7 of their first-round matchup.
Kuminga followed up his career-best 31-point performance Thursday with 22 points and has scored 20 or more points in a career-best six straight games.
Lakers: At Houston on Monday night to start a back-to-back on the road with a game at Atlanta on Tuesday.
Warriors: Host the 76ers on Tuesday night.
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