Lakers and Warriors to meet in play-in game
The final games of the NBA regular seasons were played in the early hours of this morning – Central African Time and saw the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers beating the New Orleans Pelicans 110 – 98, but even on the back of a five-game streak unable to secure a Playoffs spot because the Portland Trail Blazers won their matchup against the Denver Nuggets to secure the sixth spot in the West.
Meanwhile, after a 46-point performance on Saturday night, the league’s scoring leader Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a 113 – 101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and scooped the eighth seed.
So, what does this mean?
This means that the boys from Akron will be meeting in an elimination game (in the postseason), for the fifth time, in the last seven years, only this time they are both on the West and LeBron is in a Lakers jersey.
Despite their relatively impressive performance without one of the Splash Brothers this season (Klay Thompson), the Warriors will still come into the game as the underdogs, especially when one looks at the teams on paper.
On size alone, the Lakers have a distinct advantage, not to mention that collectively, LA has more post season experience than the Warriors. To add to that, even when they missed two of their top players in LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were still top in defensive ranking.
The Warriors do have the best shooter on the planet on their squad, but the real issue here is the pieces that they have around him.
Curry, who has been on a tear recently, has averaged 32 points per outing and been expectedly the most consistent player on the squad. Andrew Wiggins has also been relatively reliable and has averaged 18.6 points, Kelly Oubre Jr, who has been notably inconsistent has been averaging 15.8 points, while rookie James Wiseman has also made his presence felt with 11.5 points per game.
One undeniable fact that could make this contest a mismatch is the fact that the Lakers have the Warriors beat on size and that will have a big impact on the defensive end of the game.
The warriors will be coming up against a forest – James, Davis, Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Markieff Morris will be difficult to get past on the defensive end, while guards Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Coldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso, Ben McLemore and Talen Horton-Tucker will also prove to be problematic.
One thing is for sure and that is that the Warriors will have a different temperament when they go into this game and that is to try by any means to shock the Lakers and also try to upset them and make them miss their second postseason in three years.
On the other hand, with Lebron already having declared Steph the unofficial MVP today, Los Angeles will not see this as an easy game, especially with what is at stake and will want to take command of the game early on and keep it.
They say Any Given Sunday, but this one is going to be Any Given Wednesday because in sport, despite what is on paper, anything can happen on game day. With the Lakers being the defending champions and the history behind LeBron and Steph, this might almost be as exciting as a conference final.