Coming off another performance in which they did not belong on the same floor as the opposing team, the Lakers will look to gain any sort of positive momentum as they wind down the season. The Warriors are having one of the best seasons in the history of their franchise, and they are intent on getting the best seed possible in the Western Conference playoff race. The Warriors will be playing the second night of a back-to-back, but at this point in the season and the circumstances surrounding their playoff seeding that will likely not be a huge factor. Let’s see how the Lakers will match up with them.
Frontcourt: David Lee is having another great season for Golden State. However, it is unknown when he will return from a hamstring injury for this one. In his absence, the Warriors have been going small with Draymond Green at the four. Green is a highly competitive player who fights hard on each possession. He is a versatile defender who can guard a wing effectively and also bang in the post. He is not afraid to put it up from beyond the arc, but he has struggled with his consistency from distance (31.4% from three on the year). Look for Mike D’Antoni to potentially start Wes Johnson at the four to match the Warriors in going small.
Andrew Bogut has been a huge factor in the Warriors’ transformation into a defensive-minded team. The Aussie center, when healthy, is one of the best defensive centers in the game. He averages double-digit rebounds on a nightly basis (10.1 per game) and is a presence at the rim, where he averages 1.8 blocks a night. Bogut has a solid feel for the game offensively, but doesn’t get many touches on the block in the guard-centric offense of the Warriors. He is a good distributor and has solid touch around the basket, however. Come playoff time, look for Bogut’s historically bad free-throw shooting (34% on the year) to possibly be an issue for Golden State.
Backcourt: Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson was not lying when he stated that he believes he is coaching the best shooting backcourt in the history of the league, and he makes a valid argument. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are two of the elite shooters we have seen in a long time. The Warriors’ rise to being a playoff contender starts with Curry, who has turned himself into one of the top players in the NBA. Curry is quite simply the best shooter in the league. Whether it is off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, or in an isolation, Curry is deadly. He shoots 41.8 percent on threes on nearly eight attempts per game, and shoots a solid 46.8 percent from the field on mostly jumpshots. Needless to say, the Lakers must go over all ball screens and stay attached when he’s off the ball. Curry excels as an assist man as well and averages 8.5 assists per game, good for fifth in the league.
Klay Thompson has been extra hot of late for the Warriors, averaging 22.2 points per game in his last five while shooting 53 percent from beyond the arc. Klay has one of the quickest releases in the game and is at his best when coming off screens or knocking it down off of penetration and pitch. He, like Curry, shoots a high volume of threes while maintaining an excellent percentage (41.9% on 6.5 attempts per game). The Warriors team feeds off of the momentum of made threes from their backcourt.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Production from Starters: The Lakers’ bench has clearly been better than their starters in their last two outings. It would be wise of Coach D’Antoni to insert Nick Young or Jordan Farmar into the starting lineup to help give that unit some scoring punch as well as some overall energy. The starting lineup the Lakers have rolled out the last two games would not be scaring many D-League teams.
Guard the Three: The Warriors can go on game-changing runs when Curry, Thompson, and even Andre Iguodala get it going from beyond the arc. Aside from David Lee, when he plays, the Warriors do not get many easy baskets around the rim or many post-up buckets. The Lakers must run shooters off the three-point line and rotate to avoid open looks.
Limit Turnovers: While the Lakers only had 11 turnovers against the Rockets in their last outing, many of those turnovers led to easy run-outs in transition. Sometimes, the Warriors can be prone to droughts in the half-court due to their difficulty in generating easy baskets. If the Lakers want any shot at winning tonight, they must be have less than 12 turnovers.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-53) vs. Golden State Warriors (48-30)
7:30 PM PST, April 11, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Warriors Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: Draymond Green
C: Andrew Bogut
Key Reserves: PG Steve Blake, PF Marreese Speights, G Jordan Crawford
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnosn
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Jordan Hill
Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak: ‘Will NOT Consult’ With Kobe On D’Antoni’s Future, Plus Signs Extension