When the Los Angeles Lakers (36-34) travel to Oakland Monday night to square off against the Golden State Warriors (40-31), the Western Conference battle for playoff position will be on the national stage of NBA TV.
Who will pull out the win Monday?
This potential playoff preview will pit two of the more exciting offensive franchises in the NBA against each other, but it will be the lack of elite defense from either team that results in this game turning into a track meet.
If you love fundamental basketball predicated on great defense first and foremost, avoid this game at all costs. The lackadaisical play in each team’s defensive zone will result in an offense-driven showcase.
Add in the injury questions around the returning Pau Gasol and the questionable Stephen Curry, and this matchup has too many underlying storylines for hardcore and casual NBA fans not to tune into the action.
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
When: Monday, March 25 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Watch: NBA TV
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Betting Line: Not available as of Sunday, March 24
Injuries (via CBSSports)
Antawn Jamison, PF, Questionable
Jordan Hill, PF, Out for season
Stephen Curry, PG, Questionable
Brandon Rush, SG, Out for season
Key Storylines: Stephen Curry and Pau Gasol’s Impact
Golden State Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry has come alive in 2012-13 as one of the best pure shooters in the NBA, but an ankle injury suffered in Saturday’s victory over the Washington Wizards (h/t Rusty Simmons) has the team’s top scorer questionable for Monday’s game.
If the Warriors want to beat the Lakers, they’ll need Curry on the court and playing well.
Curry is having arguably the best year of his young career, averaging 22.4 points, 6.6 assists and four rebounds, but without his presence at the point, Golden State would be forced to start Jarrett Jack against Los Angeles.
Jack is a good backup point guard, but the Warriors need Curry to walk away with a win Monday.
The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a devastating loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday, but it wasn’t all bad, as the team got veteran power forward Pau Gasol back in the lineup after he missed 19 games with a foot injury.
Los Angeles played the forward in limited minutes as he continues adjust to the game speed, and as the Los Angeles Times is reporting, Gasol should see his minutes increase each game.
Gasol should be able to play Monday against Golden State (barring any setbacks before the opening tip), and the lack of low-post depth for the Warriors should be enough to get the Lakers big man going physically and mentally.
Just in time for the postseason homestretch, too.
Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Klay Thompson
In what should be the most exciting matchup of the night, NBA legend Kobe Bryant will take on second-year star Klay Thompson in the battle of the shooting guards.
There is no question that Bryant has every imaginable advantage in this matchup, but don’t discount what Thompson, who is 6’7” and committed to playing fundamental defense, is capable of. Bryant will face one of the tougher challenges of the season.
Thompson plays just as well in the offensive zone, averaging 16.4 points per game. Too bad for the Warriors that Bryant is averaging an astounding 27 points per game this season.
As much as Thompson has flourished this year, Bryant knows every trick in the book and will push the young star to his limit. The Lakers star will take this head-to-head meeting, but the Warriors prospect will only get better from the experience he gains Monday.
Predicted Starting Lineups
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Pau Gasol
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
Prediction: Los Angeles 113, Golden State 111
The lack of defense that will be played Monday will make old-school basketball fans cringe (both teams are in the bottom third of the NBA, allowing over 100 points per game), but both the Lakers (sixth in the NBA) and the Warriors (ninth) have top-10 offenses.
A perfect storm of lackluster defense and potent offensive play will result in a high-scoring game (the point total will be even higher if both Curry and Gasol play major minutes Monday), and the NBA fans that tune into the national broadcast will be treated to one of the more exciting matchups of the season.
Los Angeles has too much talent and depth to lose to Golden State this time around, and the Lakers' assault on a postseason berth will receive a major boost when the team beats the talented Warriors on the road.