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Warriors legend Sleepy Floyd on his insane 51-point game against Showtime Lakers

Sleepy Floyd (21) scores over James Worthy as part of his 29-point fourth quarter. | Reginald Pearman/MediaNews Group/Oakland Tribune via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers are just hours away from beginning their first playoff series matchup since 1991, and the Standard spoke with the author of one of the finest moments in Warriors-Lakers history to celebrate the occasion.

Yes, the Warriors were eliminated in five games by the Lakers in the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals, but in Game 4, Sleepy Floyd’s 51-point performance helped Golden State avoid a sweep and nearly blew the roof off of Oakland Arena.

“The environment was electric,” Floyd said. “If the ballgame was tight, you could hear our fans. The Warriors have always had a great fanbase.”

Golden State entered the fourth quarter of that May 10, 1987, game facing a 14-point deficit, but Floyd scored 29 in the final 12 minutes, still an NBA Playoff record for most points in a quarter, as the Warriors rallied for a 129-121 win.

“When Byron (Scott) dunked on Purvis (Short), they were really talking trash, and they felt it was over,” Floyd said. “Mychal Thompson stood there and posed after a routine three-point play, and he celebrated like he had done a Dominique Wikins 360-degree dunk. Michael Cooper was talking trash. Even the guys on the bench who never got in were talking trash.”

LA’s arrogance gave Floyd all the fuel he needed to hand the Lakers what would turn out to be their only playoff loss of 1987 until they met the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, a series the Lakers won in six games to seal their third championship of the decade and their first of back-to-back titles.

Sleepy Floyd (21) is congratulated by head coach George Karl and the rest of the Golden State Warriors bench. | Gary Reyes/Digital First Media Group/Oakland Tribune via Getty Images

“The Lakers were a pretty cocky bunch, and for good reason. They could usually back it up,” he said. “But when I saw them celebrating, I went to the bench and just told George Karl I was gonna take it to the basket. Our momentum started, our defense picked up and the whole momentum of the game changed.”

Floyd made 12 field goals in a row and shot 18-for-26 that day, but the Game 5 loss two nights later at The Forum was Floyd’s final game with the Warriors. The Georgetown star signed with the Houston Rockets that offseason, but he still maintains a strong relationship with the organization.

“The Warriors organization has always reached out to me and kept me involved. They’ve always had a great appreciation for their former players,” Floyd said from his home in North Carolina. “If I have a kid that wants a jersey or a charity that needs something to auction off, they’re just a phone call away.”

Ahead of the eighth playoff series between the Warriors and Lakers and the fifth postseason meeting between Stephen Curry and LeBron James, Floyd is unsurprisingly pulling for his former team, though he’s acutely aware of the challenges the Warriors face.

“Obviously, I’m pulling for the Warriors to win, but the Lakers’ length will give them problems. They may try to put Steph in some pick-and-rolls and force him to guard LeBron, who’s a matchup problem for anybody,” Floyd commented. “On the other hand, the Warriors’ movement and outside shooting is a strength. The Lakers are coming off a series where the Memphis Grizzlies couldn’t hit an outside shot, and they could just pack the lane against Ja Morant.”

Klay Thompson will face his father's team in the Western Conference Semifinals. | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

While Mychal Thompson’s celebration after an ordinary play inspired Floyd’s historic outburst, the 2023 series will be an opportunity for another Thompson to etch his name into Warriors-Lakers lore.

“Klay always had a dream of playing against the Lakers, so that’ll be sentimental for him,” Floyd said. “I think Klay’s gonna have a better series. He knows that last series wasn’t up to his standards, but he started to snap out of it at the end of Game 7. I’m also looking for big games out of (Andrew) Wiggins and Jordan Poole.”

Poole was a popular name in basketball discussions on Tuesday, not for any of his own actions, but because Snoop Dogg called out his poor shooting on ESPN First Take and encouraged the Lakers to leave him open.