Records: Lakers 12-14 (11th in the West). Warriors 18-9 (5th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 (5th in NBA), Warriors 104.9 (7th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.2 (15th in NBA), Warriors 102.0 (14th in NBA)
Projected starting lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Festus Ezeli.
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out), Jordan Hill (questionable); Warriors: Andrew Bogut (out), Brandon Rush (out).
The Lakers Coming in: After surviving a nail-biter earlier in the week at home against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Los Angeles Lakers are owners of a three-game win streak and will be looking to improve on it tonight at Oracle Arena.
The team is still facing questions as it pertains to its rotation mind you, as evidenced by Antawn Jamison’s bagel in the minutes column against the Bobcats.
Devin Ebanks was the nominal starter against Charlotte but only saw five total minutes of playing action while Kobe Bryant (43 minutes), Jodie Meeks (39 minutes) and Darius Morris (29 minutes) played some heavy minutes. In addition, with Metta World Peace now playing power forward off the bench, does this mean the Jamison experiment is over?
The biggest news undoubtedly has to be that Steve Nash is scheduled to play tonight, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, and this might certainly be the boost of optimism the needs after a fairly slow start this season. But again, this leads to more questions concerning the rotations — let’s not kid ourselves though, it’s Steve Nash that’s coming back here! — as well as the amount of minutes that Nash can play and whom he plays them with.
Tonight’s contest will at least provide some temporary answers.
The Warriors Coming in: The Golden State Warriors have won eight of their past 10 contests and just recently took apart the Bobcats at home by double digits thanks in large part to their 14-of-27 shooting from 3-point range.
Stephen Curry is playing some great basketball this month, but so is David Lee as evidenced by his 23.2 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game on 59.6 percent field goal shooting in the month of December.
It’s worth noting that Lee had a triple-double last night against Charlotte; a performance that highlighted all of his skills.
With that said, the Warriors have lost seven of their last eight meetings to the Lakers and will want to finally tilt things back into their favor.
Keys to the game: The one area of the game that absolutely bears paying attention in the contest tonight has to be rebounding. Indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers are second in the NBA in rebounding rate while the Golden State Warriors are third.
Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will obviously play a huge role on this front, but it’s also important for Metta World Peace to snatch a fair amount of rebounds considering that he will more than likely be matched up against either David Lee or Carl Landry.
The starters should hold their own on this front, but the Warriors’ bench might narrow the gap much like they did the first time both of these teams played on November 9th, as they grabbed 23 of the 47 rebounds the Dubs accumulated.
In addition, the Lakers’ defense will have to make some tough decisions in their pick-and-roll defense, because the Warriors love to use David Lee as a pressure release point at the top of the key when defenses rotate. The end result is that the Florida product can take the open jumper, put the ball on the floor if a slow-footed big man is defending him or simply swing the ball to the open shooter where the Warriors are converting 42.1 percent of their treys in the month of December according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
Golden State will stretch the court by occasionally playing Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all at the same time; which tends to open up the driving lanes and allow the Warriors to create high percentage shots. NBA.com tells us that the Warriors second most used lineup of the season features Curry, Jack, Thompson, Landry and Lee; and that unit produces 110.9 points and 29.3 assists per 48 minutes on 50.6 percent field goal shooting and 42.7 percent 3-point field goal shooting.
This might be one of those instances where D’Antoni is obliged to play MWP on the perimeter a little to ensure there is enough proper ball pressure being applied on ball handlers to ensure the Lakers do not lose containment on the perimeter and allow a multitude of open looks from deep.
With that said, if we get away from the stats, there are two facets that immediately come to mind in this contest:
I. The Lakers have always played well in Golden State. Lakers fans typically show up in every venue, but Oracle Arena usually has a large contingent; but one wonders if the team’s resurgence equates to more Warriors fans showing up; and also whether this new Dubs team rises to the occasion to play a team that’s had their number seemingly forever.
II. With Brandon Rush out for the year, the Warriors do not have one single player on the roster smart and disciplined enough to make life tough for Kobe Bryant other than Draymond Green. Seriously, Kobe has pretty much had his way with all of the Warriors players, but Green’s size and defensive IQ might earn him some minutes covering the Black Mamba; but otherwise it stands to reason that Bryant will have one of those nights where most of his jumpers look easy.
Tonight’s game certainly should prove to be entertaining and high paced, which could potentially produce a lot of fireworks.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.