For the fourth consecutive year LeBron James will face off with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. This time however, he will do so as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers as this Western Conference clash headlines the Christmas Day slate of games.
The two teams come in to this game on opposite sides of the spectrum. The Lakers have lost two straight and four of six as injuries to their frontcourt have hurt them on both sides of the floor. The Warriors, meanwhile, have won eight of 10 and finally seem to be getting in a groove.
Had it not been for injuries, Curry would likely be the frontrunner for MVP right now. He is averaging 29.2 points, 5.2 rebounds,and 5.2 assists while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 46.5 percent from deep. Kevin Durant has stepped up his all-around game big time as well, averaging 29.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.
The difference for the Warriors this season has been their other two stars not performing at quite the same level. Klay Thompson is shooting just 33.7 percent from deep, by far a career-low, while Draymond Green’s scoring and three-point shooting are their lowest since his rookie season. Both remain stellar defensively however.
James will of course be leading the way for the Lakers, but as usual the young players will dictate how successful the Lakers are on this day. Kyle Kuzma has been performing at a near All-Star level in the month of December, raising his numbers across the board while showing an increased attention to defense and playmaking.
Brandon Ingram has only recently returned from injury, but has been great averaging 19 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. But for this game, Ingram’s defense will likely be more important than anything else. He will undoubtedly spend time on Curry, Durant and Thompson throughout the contest and will likely be relied upon to slow down whomever is the hottest between the three.
Unlike previous seasons for the Warriors, they have not been a defensive stalwart that has led them to three championships, ranking just 14th in defensive efficiency. They also rank in the bottom half of the league in opposing fast break points, points in the paint, and second chance points. S
ome of it surely has to do with Green being out, but it could still be an area the Lakers could exploit.
Additionally, the Warriors aren’t as deep as previous seasons. The likes of Quinn Cook, Damian Jones, Jonas Jerebko, Kevon Looney and Alfonzo McKinnie are playing a lot of minutes for the Warriors.
If Lonzo Ball has his normal positive impact, especially on defense, and the Lakers role players can outplay the Warriors bunch, the Lakers could very well pull off the upset.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-14) vs. Golden State Warriors (23-11)
5:00 P.M. PT, Dec. 23, 2018
Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyson Chandler, Josh Hart, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson
Projected Warriors starting lineup:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Jonas Jerebko
C: Draymond Green
Key Reserves: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevon Looney, Alfonzo McKinnie
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