Lakers

Lakers Look to Douse Scorching-Hot Warriors

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A game many NBA fans dreamed of will now become a reality on Wednesday night.

LeBron James will once again meet Stephen Curry and the Warriors in a playoff-like aura. The two haven’t met like this since 2018, where LeBron’s second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers came to an end after being swept in the NBA Finals.

Fast forward three years later and the rivalry between James and Curry is renewed, as two teams that had very different expectations coming into the season will clash in the 7-8 play-in game.

The Lakers have battled the injury bug this season, but are now seemingly at full strength– James and Davis both played in their final regular-season game. This was much-needed playing time for two stars who missed a combined 69 games this year.

On the flip side, the Warriors come in red-hot and are currently riding a six-game winning streak. They have their MVP candidate in Stephen Curry, while having the mindset of a team that is looking to cause chaos for LA.

For the Lakers to win this game, it will have to be done on the defensive end.

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Containing Curry and Co.

For the first time since the 1999-2000 NBA season, the Lakers finished the year with the league’s top-rated defense. Despite all the injuries and inconsistent play throughout the season, defense remained the one constant. The team will surely throw multiple defenders at Curry, who averages 32.0 points per game and won this year’s scoring title.

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Steph should not be the sole focus of the Lakers’ defense, however. The Warriors finished the season averaging a league-best 27.7 assists per game, proof they have no problem spacing the floor and finding the open man.

Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole will be the focal points of Golden State’s secondary offense. In eight games this month, Wiggins is averaging 22.6 points per game (48% FG, 38% 3PT) compared to his season average of 18.6.

Like Wiggins, Poole has also been a significant beneficiary of Curry’s gravity, as the second year player has averaged 17.8 points per game over his last nine games. The Warriors have seemingly found different ways to find Poole open shots, similar to what they do with Steph. Running both players off the three-point line should be LA’s top priority.

Exploit the Size Difference Down Low

One of the biggest advantages the Lakers have against the Warriors is their size. The Warriors’ only active center at the moment is Kevin Looney. Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson have played a bit of center as well, but both only stand at 6’6″. LA’s seven-footers Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond can easily get any shot they want inside the paint, so LeBron should immediately try to find those two in the post each offensive possession. The Lakers should also have no issue controlling the board battle on both ends of the floor.

Draymond Green made postgame comments on Saturday saying people have “gone at him for years with centers,” and that it hasn’t worked yet.

Green is sorely mistaken, however. In Golden State’s win over Memphis this weekend, Grizzlies center Jonas Valančiūnas posted a double-double with 29 points and 16 rebounds. Jazz center Rudy Gobert also posted a double-double earlier in the month against the Warriors. If the Lakers properly utilize their size advantage down low, then one should expect AD or Drummond to achieve a monstrous stat line by the end of the night.

Potential Legacy At Stake

James is plenty accustomed to “legacy talk” when it comes to his career. His time with the Miami Heat was nearly in question after losing the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron did proceed to lead the Heat to back-to-back championships, similar to what he hopes to achieve after the 2021 playoffs are said and done. His legacy took another small hit after the NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, but many disagree that the blame lies solely on LeBron for the Cavs’ three NBA Finals losses in four years against the Warriors.

Tonight, however, will be on him.

On paper, this Lakers squad is a better team than they were last year. LeBron has played with superstars before, but none at the caliber of Anthony Davis. With the team now healthy, LA has enough firepower to ensure this game isn’t close.

The Lakers are set up perfectly for LeBron and AD to dominate– now it’s up to them to deliver on his promise and punch the Lakers’ ticket to face the Phoenix Suns in the next round.

Follow us on Twitter @LakersLead for the latest Lakers news and insight. 

About Gabriel Mungaray

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