Veteran superstar Kobe Bryant and exciting rookie Klay Thompson will go head-to-head on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers (30-19) visit the Golden State Warriors (20-27).
With Mike Brown drawing scrutiny for benching Bryant in Los Angeles' last game against the Memphis Grizzlies, all eyes will be on how the Black Mamba responds following back-to-back 18-point performances where he's struggled with his shot.
On the other side of the ball, most will be watching Thompson, the No. 11 overall pick from the 2011 draft, who has suddenly catapulted himself into the public spotlight.
Since stepping into a starting role following the Monta Ellis trade, Thompson has averaged 18.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, one steal and is shooting a solid 37.9 percent from deep.
Thompson has scored 25 or more points three times over that span, but Bryant will be on a mission to shut him down and lead his Lakers to a much-needed victory over a less-talented Warriors team.
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
When: Tuesday, March 27, 10:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Listen: 710 ESPN (Los Angeles), KNBR 680 (Bay Area)
Betting Line: Lakers -6, according to Bovada.lv
Key Injuries: Andrew Bogut (ankle), Stephen Curry (ankle/foot), Nate Robinson (hamstring), Andris Biedrins (groin)
What They're Saying
It's incredible how fast the narrative changes around this particular Lakers team.
After convincing victories against Miami, Boston and Memphis in mid-March, Los Angeles has lost three of its last five games against Utah, Houston and Memphis in a rematch.
Since the most recent loss against the Grizzlies, the focus has been on Bryant's benching and the quotes he provided to the media following the game (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles):
"Of course I was," Bryant told reporters when asked if he was upset about the benching.
"He makes the decision. He's the coach. If you guys are looking for a story, I'm not going to give you one. I can't sit here and criticize his decisions. In leading this ballclub, that's something I can't afford to do. I got to have his back. I've had his back the whole season; I can't start doing something crazy now. It wouldn't make no sense."
Most Important Player: Andrew Bynum
The first-time All-Star starter has arrived.
Bynum is averaging a ridiculous 23.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on 65.6 percent shooting in March, and the Warriors simply have no way of combating his dominance beneath the basket.
With nine double-doubles since the month began, Bynum should be able to have his way down low against a Golden State team without a physical force to defend him.
Coming off of two games where he's combined to score 58 points on 23-of-36 from the floor, the Lakers must go to Bynum early and often in order to establish a low-post advantage early in the game.
Key Matchup: Lakers bench vs. Warriors bench
The Grizzlies bench outscored that of the Lakers 41-9 in Memphis' victory, a trend that can't continue if Los Angeles is going to continue to be successful.
With Ramon Sessions now in the starting backcourt, Steve Blake needs to step up and show a better ability to lead the reserve attack than he's shown previously.
Both Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts will need to step up and contribute in order for the Lakers to emerge with a victory.
Lakers 104, Warriors 93