Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

In this Pacific Division showdown, the Los Angeles Lakers will travel to the Oracle Arena to square off against the Golden State Warriors.

For all of the offseason hype created by L.A., this season has been nothing short of a disaster.

They've had three head coaches, four point guards and 14 losses.

But they're getting healthier (Pau Gasol is back in the lineup and Steve Nash could be back soon) and have matched a season-best with their current three-game winning streak.

As for the Warriors, they continue to exceed expectations.

Despite lengthy absences from two of their top defenders (Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush), coach Mark Jackson's team has defended and rebounded better than it has in years.

But following an impressive seven-game road trip (which featured six Warriors wins, including victories over the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat), Golden State has struggled in their two most recent games.

They salvaged a seven-point win over the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday, then gave up 131 points in a disheartening loss to the Sacramento Kings a night later.

These teams met at Staples Center on November 9. The Lakers handed the Warriors their most lopsided loss of the season, 101-77.

 

Time: Saturday, December 22, 10:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBA League Pass

Records: Los Angeles Lakers (12-14), Golden State Warriors (17-9)

Betting Line: Warriors -1 (according to Vegas Insider Consensus)

 

Injuries (via CBSSports.com)

Lakers

Steve Nash (leg), questionable

Steve Blake (abdomen), out

Warriors

Andrew Bogut (ankle), out

Brandon Rush (knee), out

 

Key Matchup

Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers vs. Klay Thompson, SG, Warriors

The 34-year-old Bryant continues to lengthen his lead in his race with time.

He's the NBA's scoring leader (29.5 points per game), all while shooting a career-best 47.7 percent from the field.

He's also served as L.A.'s point guard by default. With coach Mike D'Antoni forced to use his third and fourth options at the position (Darius Morris and Chris Duhon), Bryant has emerged as his best option to initiate the offense.

The first time these teams met, Bryant dropped 27 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) in just 32 minutes of work. 

Thompson may not have the consistent production of Bryant (15.7 points per game), but the sweet-shooting sophomore has all of the offensive tools to erupt on any given night.

He's best-known for his three-point shooting (career 39.6 percent), but that's not the only way he can affect a game's outcome.

Like Bryant, Thompson is a cerebral player. He reads defenses well and has shown court vision when he's put the ball on the floor.

But, also like Bryant, he's gotten a little perimeter-happy. He's attempted the second-most three-pointers in the league (182).

Thompson is such a good shooter it's tough for Jackson to turn off his green light. But his reliance on that outside shot has limited the impact of the rest of his game.

 

X-Factors

Dwight Howard, C, Lakers

Most teams in the NBA struggle to match up with the physically imposing Lakers center.

Given that the Warriors have had major problems dealing with big, strong post players, Howard could have one of his signature games that have helped to define his eight-year career.

Howard scored just six points in the team's first meeting in 2012-13, but the Lakers only needed 24 minutes out of him (a season low by more than six minutes).

He's still feeling the effects from undergoing back surgery in April and appears to be working his legs back into shape. Despite that, he's still one of the best in the business (18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game).

Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors

With his two-year battle with a nagging ankle injury apparently behind him, Curry has finally displayed the superstar form that Warrior fans had been waiting to see.

He's logged the most minutes per game of his career (37.8) while having his second-fewest turnovers (3.0 per game).

What's most amazing, though, is that Curry's enjoying his best season despite posting the worst shooting percentages of his career. His three-point shooting is still impressive (42.9 percent), but his field-goal percentage has been a bit worrisome (42.4).

But he hasn't let his shooting woes affect the rest of his game. He's defending better than than scouts thought he could. And he's attacking the basket and getting to the foul line (an added weapon for the career 90.1-percent free-throw shooter).

 

Depth Charts

Lakers

Courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Warriors

Courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Prediction

Warriors 113, Lakers 107

The Lakers may have more talent, but the Warriors have the main missing ingredient in L.A.—chemistry.

Jackson's team feeds off each other and off the always-raucous Warriors faithful.

The Lakers have struggled away from Staples Center. They have yet to beat a winning team on the road and have won just four of their 12 away games.

If the Warriors' frontcourt can find enough offense to compensate for their defensive limitations, this could be another impressive win to add to Golden State's growing resume.

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