The NBA is back! The Los Angeles Lakers are traveling up north for an Opening Night clash with the Golden State Warriors, hoping to spoil the defending champions’ ring night on Tuesday.
The Lakers went through a tumultuous preseason. L.A. won just one game as Darvin Ham tested out countless different lineups to get a good feel of what team he’s got on his hands. But that one win happened to come against the Warriors thanks to a 28-point performance from Anthony Davis — and some lethal shooting from the Purple and Gold’s supporting cast.
Knowing Golden State’s fondness of small ball, the Lakers are downsizing and starting Davis at the center again with LeBron James joining him in the frontcourt. Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV complete the starting five, tailored to balance shooting with the ability to contain the uber-talented Warriors backcourt.
With Westbrook entering the starting lineup despite talks of him coming off the bench, the Lakers’ second unit will be led by Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves.
Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr. and Dennis Schroder are all missing the Tuesday clash with injuries.
Andre Iguodala should be the only notable absentee on the Warriors’ side, meaning the NBA champions can count on Klay Thompson and Draymond Green this time around after both missed the preseason loss to the Lakers. Green returns after taking some time away from the team in the aftermath of his altercation with Jordan Poole, providing the Warriors with a particularly significant boost on the defensive side of the ball.
With the former Defensive Player of the Year back anchoring Golden State’s defense, the Lakers shooters will likely find fewer open looks around the perimeter — and even Davis might find it harder to exert his dominance in the paint. This is where Wenyen Gabriel’s athleticism and versatility could prove priceless, with the 6-foot-9 forward likely to enjoy plenty of minutes as Davis’ backup.
While the Purple and Gold are still gelling on offense, they will need their defense to step up and generate extra possessions to keep up with the Warriors’ offensive firepower. The excellent news is Stephen Curry and Jonathan Kuminga — the second-year wing who has become a significant part of Steve Kerr’s rotation — turned the ball over at a top-40 rate in the preseason. The Lakers should have opportunities to pounce and hurt their opponents in transition.
But most importantly, L.A.’s halfcourt offense needs to stay patient and make the most of their scoring chances. The Lakers had the third-worst true shooting percentage (51.5%) of all NBA teams in the lead-up to Opening Night — and it’s difficult to see them stand a chance without that percentage going up on Tuesday.
But numbers won’t matter come tip-off, and with the right attitude and effort, everything will become possible within the next 48 minutes — the beauty of the game of basketball.
Let’s say this one more time: the NBA is finally back!
Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) @ Golden State Warriors
7 p.m. PT, October 18, 2022
Chase Center, San Francisco, California
NonStopCasino Betting Odds: Warriors -7.5/-320, Lakers +7.5/+250
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Lonnie Walker IV
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Kendrick Nunn, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Wenyen Gabriel
Projected Warriors Starting Lineup:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Key Reserves: Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, Donte DiVincenzo, Moses Moody
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