First things first, we do not yet know who will be available for the Lakers today. Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant could both sit out as both are banged up. If both sit and with Anthony Brown and Lou Williams already out, the Lakers wing rotation will be in shambles with only D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Metta, and Marcelo Huertas available to soak up the PG/SG/SF minutes. That’s not enough bodies and against the Warriors, specifically, is a devastating blow.
Even if Kobe and Clarkson do play, though, it’s not likely to matter much in terms of the result. The Warriors are a historically great team. They are 55-5 and haven’t lost a game all season in which they have lead at the half. Counter that with a team like the Thunder — who are a fantastic team for this season — who have lost 9 games when leading going into the 4th quarter this season and you get a sense of how dominant the Warriors are; how they simply know how to close games and turn what could be an L into a W.
Of course, the hope is that Kobe and Clarkson do play. For Kobe, this will be his last game against the Warriors ever. His last game against reigning MVP Steph Curry, his last game against a group of players who form the most dominant team since at least the early 2000 Lakers who won 3 titles in a row (though, to be fair, this Warriors team is above even that team in terms of regular season dominance). I would like to see Kobe face these guys one last time, see him do battle agains the best even if it’s not going to result in his team coming out on top.
As for Clarkson, this game offers less meaning and if he’s feeling any residual soreness or pain, sitting out is the best course of action. But if he’s good to go, getting him on the floor against such good perimeter players is a fantastic challenge that can serve as another learning experience for the young guard. Because of Clarkson’s steadiness and consistency this year, it can be easy to forget he’s only a 2nd year player who still can learn and grow so much as a player. This would only be one game, but when going against the league’s best, there are lessons to takeaway regardless of the sample size.
In terms of the rest of the matchups, many will surely be focusing on Russell vs. Curry. Russell is coming off a bad game against the Hawks on Friday and asking for a bounce back against the league’s MVP is asking too much. That said, him showing he’s capable of hanging in or, at the very least, competing hard and showing flashes of what he is capable of would be a nice consolation. I’m hopeful he can hit some shots, make good decisions, and focus in on defense — even if it might not lead to getting stops; Curry is that good.
The Julius Randle/Draymond Green matchup is the other battle worth our time. Randle was good against Paul Millsap on Friday and Green offers a similar opponent in terms of versatility on both ends of the floor. Green is the better player overall and is more of playmaker on offense, however, so Randle will have his hands full tracking him defensively and trying to score on the other end. Still, though, Randle has the tools and if he’s able to hit a few jumpers he can then use his first step and strength to get into the paint.
Lastly, expect a buzz in the arena today — especially if Kobe plays. Hopefully that energy translates into a good game for both sides and, of course, the fans.
Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on ABC. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.