The Los Angeles Lakers finished the 2020-21 season as the seventh seed and now must defend their spot in the playoffs when they take on the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament.
The NBA could not have imagined a more perfect Play-In Game between two of the league’s marquee teams, and for the Lakers, this will be a challenging beginning to their title defense. Despite the absence of Klay Thompson and an unproven bench, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green led the Warriors to the eight-best record in the West, something most analysts and fans did not expect.
Golden State will be a true test for Los Angeles as they try to get their bearings, but head coach Frank Vogel seemed confident about taking on such a formidable opponent.
“Obviously they have a championship pedigree with Draymond and Steph and Coach Kerr,” Vogel said. “Really impressed with their defensive performance throughout the course of the year, they’ve got a top-five defense. And obviously Steph is playing out of this world so it’s gonna be a big challenge but one our guys are up to.”
Anthony Davis echoed his coach’s words, acknowledging that the Lakers are ready to play the Warriors in what should be a thrilling game. But it needs to be said that this will not be an easy matchup.
Curry is capable of going nuclear at any time and the rest of Golden State can tilt the game in their favor if they can knock down shots.
The Purple and Gold are well-equipped to play against the Warriors, but they will need to be at their best — especially defensively — if they hope to win and keep the seventh seed.
James emphasizes defense ahead of Play-In Game against Warriors
LeBron James typically uses the first game of a series to figure out his opponent, but this Play-In Game will not allow for that. Instead, James acknowledged he and the rest of the roster will need to play great defense in order to pull out a win.
“You cannot replicate a Game 7, especially with the first game,” explained James. “I’ve always treated Game 1s like a feel-out game but obviously you don’t have that luxury in the Play-In Game so we just got to play to the best of our ability.
“We got to play Lakers basketball, we got to defend at a high rate. We’re playing in my opinion the MVP of our league this year in Steph so we got to be prepared for everything they have. They have championship DNA as well, they’ve been there, they know what it takes and what it feels like to be in pressure games so we got to be ready for that opportunity and for that pressure.”
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