Golden State Warriors vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis & Predictions
That's right, dear readers, you heard correctly. Despite having a great offseason that saw GM Mitch Kupchak bring in future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash and All-Star center Dwight Howard, the Lakers are 1-4 and have added some extra drama prior to tonight's game.
According to ESPN, the team has fired Brown due to the slow start. No immediate replacement has been named.
Golden State, on the other hand, is playing beautifully. Their season has had a pattern of "win, loss, win, loss, win" thus far, with one of those wins being against the Lob City Los Angeles Clippers. All in all, seeing their fast-paced offense match up with the defensive Lakers should be a lot of fun.
With Los Angeles opening a six-game homestand and with Brown now out, it's hard to say just which team will win out. Will it be the heart of the Warriors, or the determination of the veteran-laden Lakers?
Time: Friday, November 9th, 10:30 p.m., EST
Records: Golden State (3-2) vs. Los Angeles (1-4)
Betting Line: Warriors (+7), Lakers (-7)
Injuries: Andrew Bogut (ankle), Steve Nash (leg)
Key Storyline: Lakers Look to Regain Stride At Home Against Young Warriors Squad
The Lakers simply need to have a good homestand to get the metaphorical monkey off of the team's collective back. The team's 1-4 record is not at all indicative of the talent that exists on the roster and with an inexperienced, offense-first squad like the Warriors coming to town, Los Angeles is in a prime position to get off to a good start tonight.
Still, playing a younger team doesn't mean that a victory is going to be easy. Keep in mind, the Lakers' four losses have all come against younger squads: the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks.
Granted, not having a true distributor in Nash in the lineup doesn't help matters, the man is a natural leader who may have the best court vision in the league today. Still, the main guys on this team in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace have won a championship together. They know how to work with one another and should be able to figure out how to best bring home a victory.
That means finding a balance on both sides of the floor, which on the defensive end means slowing down Golden State.
Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Klay Thompson
The more the Lakers struggle, the more frustrated Kobe Bryant seems to get. After a famous "death stare" during the team's recent loss to the Utah Jazz, the five-time champion was vocal in his support of Mike Brown and chastised the media for reading too much into it as he said very bluntly, "I'm too old to deal with that stuff."
That said, now that Brown has been let go, it is all the more important that the Black Mamba be at the top of his game tonight when he matches up against second-year shooter Klay Thompson. This season, Thompson has averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from long range.
However, unlike Bryant, Thompson is a pure offensive player and is still struggling to make his shots consistently. He is only shooting 39 percent from the field and nearly half his shots have come from beyond the arc.
This is the perfect opportunity for Bryant to unleash some of his incredible defense on a player still learning some of the ins and outs of the game. He has been named to the All Defensive First Team nine times and has averaged 1.4 steals per game for his career. He is an inch shorter than the 6'7" Thompson, but his experience will be key.
Thus, throughout the game, expect Thompson to get quite the lesson from the veteran Bryant. If he has been struggling with his shot up to this point, he'll have a very hard time tonight with Bryant covering him.
X-factor: Dwight Howard
While it is important for Bryant to lead the team in Nash's absence and be the playmaker he was in the team's sole win, it is even more important that Howard take advantage of the edge he'll have in the paint tonight.
You see, Warriors center Andrew Bogut will be out tonight as he rests his sore ankle for the next seven to 10 days. This means that the Warriors will have to rely on rookie Festus Ezeli to play the 5 and while he has good size at 6'11", 255 pounds, he is nowhere near as dominant a defender as Bogut or his opponent tonight, Dwight Howard.
Simply put, tonight should be a game in which Howard is able to put up monster numbers. With a rookie defending him, he should have a great game and make shot after shot, with all anxiety about his free-throw shooting gone. His field goal percentage tonight should be through the roof, no ifs, ands or buts.
If Ezeli does beat Howard, however, the Lakers are in serious trouble. Howard has won Defensive Player of the Year three times for a reason, and there is no reason why a raw rookie in Ezeli should be able to regularly beat him.
That said, with the Warriors shorthanded and Bryant helping set up plays for him, Howard is the key to the Lakers bringing home a win tonight. Defeating Golden State starts and ends with out-defending them and in Laker-land, that relies on a great game from Howard.
Simply put, the Lakers are going to come into tonight's game angry. However, they won't be to the point where they start playing with their heads and not their hearts. Rather, they will come together as a unit and start playing the basketball everyone knows they can play.
Who will win?
The ball movement will confuse the young Warriors team, creating many holes on defense of which the Lakers will take full advantage. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard will both have great games for their team and be the leaders in crunch time.
That all being said, while the game may be close in the early minutes and maybe into the second quarter, this is really the Lakers' game to lose. They have what it takes to make this game a blowout and by making the Warriors play the game at a slower pace, they'll be able to seize permanent control of the final outcome.
In the end, it's going to be a game that sees a Warriors run here and there, but absolute domination by the Lakers in the second half.
Los Angeles Lakers 105, Golden State Warriors 87
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