“I told the guys the only two teams to beat them were us and San Antonio and we did it last. So they’re probably the ones that are a little nervous now.”
That was Luke Walton half-joking to the press corps after Tuesday’s win over the Thunder. A Nick Young game winner when he steals a pass headed to Lou Williams has a way of bringing out the humor in folks, I imagine. Or maybe Walton believes what he said? I mean, Walton has his Lakers at 8-7 with a top 10 offense a day before Thanksgiving. The man can clearly work some miracles.
In any event, the Lakers play Luke’s former team tonight in Oakland. D’Angelo Russell will not play — in fact, he was not even supposed to travel with the team (presumably to get more treatment on his sore knee). And, Julius Randle is listed as doubtful due to the hip pointer he played through on Tuesday. The Lakers without Russell are already climbing uphill. Without Randle? That’s climbing Everest in birkenstocks.
As for the Warriors, they’ve righted their ship and are rolling. As Walton’s quote above explains, they’ve only lost twice all year. They have the league’s best offense by a fair margin and are starting to sort out how to better play with each other to optimize all their weapons. Defensively they aren’t where they need to be nightly — something they know — but when they score at the rate they are, it doesn’t much matter. They simply pour on one of their signature runs and their opponent can’t do anything but suffer through it.
Tonight, then, don’t expect a Lakers’ win. In fact, this game might not even be close. The Lakers will be short handed, on the road, and playing on the 2nd night of a back to back. In other words, it is the exact scenario the Warriors faced when they traveled to Los Angeles and got blown out by 20. It’s not a stretch the Lakers suffer a similar fate. It might even be likely.
Honestly, I am hesitant to even discuss what match ups intrigue me simply because I don’t expect this game to even follow a normal flow. But say the Lakers don’t get down by 15 in the first 5 minutes, I guess I would say I am looking forward to how Young deals with Klay (who has found his shooting stroke) and how Nance deals with Draymond on both ends. I am also interested in seeing if Clarkson and Williams can continue to have good games against the Warriors’ reserve duo of Clark and McCaw.
Anyways, if this all sounds defeatist, it’s because it is. I think this game will get out of hand at some point and even though the Lakers’ have a great fighting spirit and will try to battle back, I think missing Russell and (likely) Randle will be too much of a hit to bounce back from. That said, I hope I am wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.