The NBA Playoffs started on Tuesday night with play-in tournament action and will continue with the same on Wednesday. It is nice to see an NBA environment in which you know both teams will be trying because we’ve all been amateur psychologists for the last several weeks of the regular season.
The Pacers and Celtics were winners on Tuesday and now it will be the Western Conference’s turn, as the Spurs and Grizzlies play the first game and the Warriors and Lakers play the second game. Naturally, our focus will be on that California battle.
The Lakers are -5 across the board, with the exception of Bookmaker Sportsbook, which is showing 5.5. The total on the game has been bet down to 219.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors headed into the playoffs as the #8 seed, so in a traditional season, they wouldn’t have to jump through any hoops to get in. Instead, with a six-game winning streak in hand, Golden State has to play a Los Angeles Lakers bunch that would have never been in this spot had it not been for injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
It will be up to Steph Curry to do what he has done throughout the season, and especially late in the year, to help his team to victory. Fortunately, the Warriors are not done if they lose tonight. They would play the winner of the #9 vs. #10 game between the Grizzlies and Spurs.
Curry dropped 46 in the regular season finale against Memphis after getting the night off two days prior. Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green also sat out that game against New Orleans, a game that the Warriors won 125-122 on the strength of 38 from Jordan Poole and 28 from Mychal Mulder.
The Warriors have only lost consecutive games twice since April 4 and that’s what it would take to fail to advance here. Curry has averaged nearly 37 points per game in his last nine games and has scored 32 points per game for the season. He’ll need the secondary scorers to help out here against the Lakers to be sure, so that means that Wiggins, Poole, and maybe even Green, need to contribute buckets if the Warriors are to avoid playing a do-or-die elimination game on Friday.
Despite Curry’s best efforts, the Warriors only rank 19th in ORtg, which speaks to what the secondary cast has been able to do. Golden State is seventh in eFG% by virtue of being ninth in 3P% and 11th in 2P%, but Curry shoulders a lot of that burden. Where he is helped, though, is on the defensive end, where the Warriors are eighth in defending threes and fourth in defending twos.
Los Angeles Lakers
It is extremely hard to look at the Lakers’ numbers for the full season and make a lot of determinations. This was a team that was sometimes going to go through the motions early in the year, full-knowing that a playoff berth was coming down the line. Then the injuries happened and they had to scramble a bit. Los Angeles has won five in a row now, but went from 28-13 to 37-30 with a 9-17 stretch during the times when Anthony Davis and LeBron James were out or when Davis had just returned and was trying to get back into rhythm.
Even before that, the Lakers would steal rest here and there for their primary guys. The margin for error was so great for this team that we’ve never really seen them at full strength much, except for way early in the season when James had fresh legs and the Lakers were building up that record with a 21-6 start.
For all of the hype surrounding the offensive contributions of James and Davis, the Lakers have won with defense. They’re a top-five team at defending the three, which will be hugely important tonight against Curry and the Warriors. They’re also 10th against two-point shots. The Lakers only allowed makes on 35.2% of three-point attempts. Only the Knicks, Jazz, and Hawks were better.
James has only played four games since coming back. He’s scored 25 points in 27 minutes, 24 points in 28 minutes, 19 points in 28 minutes, and 16 points in 32 minutes. Will he be able to grind out 40 minutes in a game like this? The Lakers don’t have to win today, as they can still beat the winner of the other game on Friday to get in, but still. They’d rather take care of their affairs here. Is James up for being the floor leader for the majority of the game?
Warriors vs. Lakers Free Pick
I’ll have to see it to believe it. He’s the best player ever and he can flip that switch and go be the monster workhorse we’ve always known him to be, but that ankle seems to still be a factor. He did play 55 minutes over back-to-back nights to end the regular season, but still.
I’ll have to give the nod to the Warriors at +5.5 here with how they’ve played of late and with all the questions on the LA side.
Pick: Golden State Warriors