Recent lapses have left the Los Angeles Lakers with a 101.6 defensive rating, seventh-best overall, and slightly behind the Golden State Warriors (101.1) heading into their matchup Wednesday night.
Where the Lakers have struggled on offense, the Warriors predictably are excelling. Their 113.9 offensive rating is tops in the league, with Stephen Curry (117.8), Kevin Durant (116.8) and Shaun Livingston (115.6) ranked first, second and third, respectively, in individual offensive rating.
At the crux of the Lakers’ defensive strategy is switching on pick and rolls. While it’s lent itself to success this season, a team as versatile and potent as the Warriors make for a challenge the Lakers have not yet faced.
“If you do undisciplined switching against the Warriors, they make you pay,” head coach Luke Walton said Wednesday. They’re the best in the league at the split cuts and recognizing when you’re being lazy.
“They have playmakers all over the court. From Shaun Livingston to Andre to Draymond to Steph to KD. They’re all ready to make those passes. If you’re going to switch against them, you better be disciplined, come together and communicate all of it out.”
What may aid the Lakers is neither Curry or Durant are 100 percent healthy. Curry is dealing with a right hand contusion, while Durant is bothered by a sprained left ankle. Both are listed as probable for Wednesday’s game.
The MVPs were held out of Monday’s action against the Sacramento Kings, which Andre Iguodala played in despite nursing a sore left knee. Moreover, Draymond Green has recently battled a right foot contusion.
When facing the current iteration of the Warriors, the Lakers have managed one win in each of the past three seasons. This season’s first meeting is one Walton and Larry Nance Jr. are looking forward to.
“I’m excited. We get a chance to play the champs. That’s always an exciting time,” Walton said. But it’s the same answer I always give, because it’s true, it’s exciting to play the best but at the same time nothing changes for us and what we’re trying to do.
“It’s boring. It’s getting back in transition defense, it’s taking the challenge on, and all those basic fundamentals that we’ve been preaching all year is the message we’ll be sending to our guys. It’s not a super game, it’s not let’s get super hyped for it, it’s one game just like all the other games.”
Walton added he does not view the matchup as any sort of barometer or test for his young Lakers. “The measurement comes from how we play tonight,” he said.
“How we respond after a couple losses, how we respond after some practices where we got back to the basics. That’s where the measurement comes. Not whether we beat or lose to the Warriors.”
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