Preview: Warriors vs. Lakers

There are 3 games left to be played for the Lakers (42-37), but their work in maintaining their 8th seed status is far from over.

L.A. is a full game ahead of Utah, but the Jazz have a much easier schedule facing Minnesota twice and Memphis on the road. They've only beaten the Grizzlies once at home but are undefeated against the Timberwolves in 2 tries.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have the Golden State Warriors (45-34) tonight, Spurs on Sunday and Rockets next Wednesday. They've only lost to the Warriors once but are 1-4 combined versus San Antonio (0-2) and Houston (1-2).

It's possible that the Jazz could lose to the Grizzlies (or even the T'Wolves in Minneapolis), which would then give the purple and gold the playoff berth. But that is if they win tonight and defeat either Spurs or Rockets.

And no other Laker than Kobe Bryant is more determined in making sure that the Lakers will make the playoffs.

In the last 6 games, Kobe is averaging 45.6 minutes a game…or 2.3 minutes of rest per game if you want to look at it that way. But in their big 113-106 victory in Portland on Wednesday, Bryant made sure he couldn't put the blame on anybody else should they lose by playing the entire game.

Naturally, fatigue has been a bit of a subject for Lakers fans when it comes to Kobe playing in the playoffs should the team do clinch a berth. However, the Lakers can't worry about the playoffs until they're in, and they can't get there without Kobe on the floor. Can't have both.

But if the Lakers win tonight, they will put a lot of pressure on the Jazz to win their remaining 3 games.

The last time the Warriors were in town, the Lakers handed them a 101-77 beating. Bryant was the man of the hour for L.A. that night getting 27 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Pau Gasol's numbers weren't shabby themselves with 14 points, 16 boards and 2 blocks.

The biggest difference for the Lakers in that game, however, is their defense forcing Golden State into 18 turnovers and converting those into 22 points.

If the Lakers are to beat this team tonight, they have to put their focus and effort again on the defensive end. Or everything they needed to do but didn't last time they saw this team on the road.

In the 109-103 loss in Oakland, the Lakers allowed 47.8% from the field and 43.5% from distance. Three Warriors scored in the 20+ points range in that game, including 23 points from David Lee.

Preventing both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from scoring alone is a huge undertaking for any team. But to let an undersized power forward who has no post-up game dominate 2 of the best big men in the game is simply a sin.

But, Gasol has been playing well of late since the Lakers have put the ball in his hands in the post down the stretch. His offense has picked up and, especially, his defense hasn't been this good since who knows when?

Pau is averaging 22.5 points and 2.5 blocks the last 2 games. But against the Warriors, he's only getting 10 points and .7 blocks a game. While his rebounding is a lot better versus this team, he has to score at least 17 points and make sure his defense is the reason why Lee can't do much of anything tonight.

Remember, Pau will be facing Tim Duncan the very next game. If he can't push himself into dominating Lee tonight, how is he going to fair against what a lot of people consider to be the best power forward to ever play the game? It's all about mental and physical preparation for Gasol and the rest of his teammates now before the start of post-season play.

And now that we mentioned Pau, we can't forget about Dwight Howard.

In the previous 3 meetings with Golden State, he is only getting 9.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks an outing. Those numbers are way too low against a team without a legit center. And with Andrew Bogut out with a sprained ankle, Howard has zero excuse not to punish the Warriors in the paint.

This is the 4th and final meeting of the regular season between these teams with the purple and gold looking to win the season series, 3-1. The Lakers haven't lost to the Warriors at Staples Center since March 23, 2008.

Matchup of the Game

Stephen Curry vs. Steve Blake: This is the matchup where the Lakers need to be concerned most about. It's a probably a good thing that they'll have Blake on him defensively, but Steve needs to pay more attention on defense in this game before he worries about his shots. Curry had 18 points and 5 assists at Staples Center in their loss back in November. Team defense should take care of his assists, but Blake needs to make sure Curry doesn't score in the 20s tonight.

Keys to the Game

> Team Defense: The Warriors are the league's top 3-pt. shooting team averaging 40.2% per game. Even with an improved defense and team chemistry, this team lives and dies by the 3. If their defensive rotation is sharp and transition defense is proper, the Lakers should get the W. But that is if they maintain that defensive intensity the entire game.

> Tempo: In the loss at the ORACLE Arena, the Lakers were baited into playing a fast tempo numerous times. Both Blake and Bryant need to make this game a halfcourt affair at all times unless there's an absolute fast-break opportunity. The Warriors have no answer for anyone the Lakers put on the block, so there's no reason for them take early shots or take a jumper before going inside first.

> Fast Start: The quickest way to put the pressure on the visiting team is to go on top of them early. This should also put a bit of cushion for the Lakers should they lose that focus again — which is probably likely. But that only happens if the Lakers run their offense the right way and put on a strong defensive effort.

Watch Out for

WARRIORS: Jarrett Jack: No other Warrior outside of Curry concerns the Lakers more than this guy. He averages 17 points and 5.3 assist per night out of the bench against the Lakers this year — that includes dropping 19 points on 56.3% shooting last time they visited. The Lakers have to defend him tonight!

LAKERS: Kobe Bryant: Bryant will most likely be that one guy every team will need to worry about from here on out. While scoring is never a problem for him against the Warriors (averaging 32.3 points a game), Kobe may need to defer to his teammates a bit tonight, especially after seeing the Warriors do  a good job of taking the ball out of his hand in the last game. But don't be surprised if Kobe gets the best of both worlds tonight the way he's been playing out of his mind lately.

Game Info

vs. Golden State Warriors
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. (PST)
Staples Center
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

WARRIORS: Andrew Bogut (ankle) is not with the team. Brandon Rush (knee) is out.

LAKERS: Devin Ebanks (bone spurs) is probable. Steve Nash (hamstring) is out. Jordan Hill (hip) is out for the season.

Preview: Warriors vs. Lakers

(NBAE/Getty Images)

After losing their second straight game last Sunday against Phoenix, the Lakers (11-2) just needed to get away from home to get themselves refocused and back in business. They swept through their first series of road games in the Eastern Conference by dominating defensively. They will need to contain the third-highest scoring duo of Monta Ellis (27.7 PPG) and Stephen Curry (20.4 PPG) in the NBA tonight against their division foe the Golden State Warriors (7-5).

The Warriors are 2nd in the Pacific Division and are 3 1/2 games behind the Lakers. They’re also currently the 8th highest-scoring team in the league putting up 102.8 points per game, but their defense is the 6th worst giving up 104.6 per contest. Against the highest-scoring team on the road, Golden State should have plenty to worry about.

Not only do the champs have the best-scoring offense, they happen to have the second-highest scoring duo in the NBA in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol averaging at a combined 48.5 points per game. The Lakers are also ranked 19th on defense allowing 102.2 PPG, tops in rebounding (46.9 RPG) and 2nd in assists at 24.3 APG.

The last time these two teams got together, the purple and gold won handsomely by 25 points, 105-83. But, Curry was out due to an ankle injury. Would his 20.4 PPG average have helped his team against the Laker? Probably not, but the scoreboard may have been different. Well, he’s available tonight. So, we’ll see how much he can influence the outcome of the game.

If you’re coming to the game tonight, make sure you bring a book. The Lakers are donating books to local literacy foundations in honor of the late Chick Hearns. You’ll receive a commemorative 2010-2011 Lakers pin if you donate. Here’s the official statement released by the Lakers if you want more information.

The Lakers are looking at their 4th straight win and are riding a 10-game (21-2 overall at Staples Center) winning streak against Golden State. The Warriors are 2-4 on the road so far while the Lakers have a cool 6-1 record at home.


Matchup of the Game

Monta Ellis vs. Kobe Bryant: The #2 (Ellis) and #3 (Bryant) highest-scorers in the league right now are matching up tonight. Both players scored 20 points in their first game against one another, but Kobe wasn’t anywhere close to the conditioning and rhythm in that game to what he has right now. Expect him to dominate this matchup on both sides of the floor.

Key for the Lakers


1. Points in the Paint: The Lakers have won 10 straight against the Oakland boys because they’re a much bigger team. I expect nothing less tonight.
2. Protect the Ball: The Warriors are second in the league in steals at 9.8 SPG and third in forcing turnovers at 17.2 per game, so the Lakers cannot afford to be careless with their passing or they’ll keep this team in the game the whole night.
3. Force Tempo: The Lakers may have sped the offense a little this season averaging 96 possessions per game, but that doesn’t mean they should go running with the younger Warriors. Walk the ball whenever a fast-break isn’t applicable.


1. Contain the Perimeter: Golden State is a team running behind their starting backcourt. This team is one of many teams that rely on their outside scoring to win games. Reduce their ability to shoot from distance, and the Lakers should be on their way to their 4th W in a row.
2. Crowd the Paint: Ellis is one of those guys who love to attack the rim. With his speed and athleticism, he can bring serious damage if the Lakers allow him to get in the lane the entire game. That can’t happen tonight!
3. Rebound: The Warriors are 9th in the league in rebounds thanks to David Lee, who is averaging 11.3 this season, and Andris Biedrins (9.1 RPG). Lamar Odom and Gasol will need to be active around the boards and must remember to box those guys out.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. (PST).  TV: FoxSports West (regional)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

Preview: Warriors vs. Lakers

(Courtesy: L.A. Times)

It’s not an error, but the Lakers (2-0) are hosting the undefeated Golden State Warriors (2-0) on Halloween night. Yes, the Warriors have not suffered a lost in all two games they’ve played so far this season. They out-gunned Houston 132-128 for their first win, then followed it up by beating the Clippers on Friday, 109-91. Not exactly elite opponents for the Warriors, but they have it now against the 2-time defending champs.

Last time these two teams met, it was the final game of pre-season where the Lakers came from behind to win it in overtime, 105-102 despite Monta Ellis‘ 41-point output. I doubt the Lakers will allow Ellis to duplicate that kind of a performance now that the games matter, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try, especially with his backcourt running mate Stephen Curry out with a sprained right ankle.

The Lakers themselves are also undefeated. They’re returning home to Staples Center after winning their first road game of the season against Phoenix on Friday spoiling their opening night. Against the Warriors, they’ll be going up against another “small ball” team that’s missing one of it’s main guns.

But, Golden State have plenty of other weapons. We saw how well Dorrell Wright and second-year man Reggie Williams can shoot anywhere around the perimeter in the two exhibition games against the Lakers. Will they be enough to keep the game interesting? Or will this game turn out to be a battle of the boards?

Former Knick David Lee, Lou Amundson and Andris Biedrins are pretty active guys around the basket. Lee is an undersized power forward, but this guy can gobble rebounds with the best of them. Lamar Odom isn’t shabby at attacking the glass himself, but he will also need to do the fundamentals and put a body on Lee or any of their bigs lurking underneath the hoop.

The bottom line is: no matter what the Warriors do in this game, it’s still a small team going up against a big team. Golden State will really have to light it up the entire night and the Lakers to have a total meltdown for the Warriors to pull an upset. But c’mon, what are the chances of that from happening?

Matchup of the Game

Kobe Bryant vs. Monta Ellis: Williams might replace Curry in their starting lineup, so Monta will play the point. But look for Kobe to defend Ellis maybe as early as from tip-off. I don’t think Phil Jackson would wait around until Ellis gets warmed up before he puts Bryant on him. Then again, don’t be surprised if Ron Artest gets the assignment rather than Kobe.

Keys for the Lakers


1. Size: Just like the game versus Phoenix, the Lakers should just go through Pau Gasol and Odom in the post each possession. The Warriors can’t contain either one with single-coverage, so there should also be plenty of open looks for the guys around the perimeter.
2. Halfcourt: Golden State is a run-and-gun team that hates teams who can play the halfcourt game because it’s such a disadvantage to them. If the Lakers take their time running the offense, they’ll also cool down the Warriors before they even get started.
3. Share the ball: The Lakers should see a steady diet of help defense on almost anyone who gets near the paint with the ball in his hands. So to make the Warriors pay for not playing honest defense, the Lakers shouldn’t hesitate on giving that extra pass.


1. Energy: It’s quite difficult to guard a small team because they usually have the mobility in their favor against a bigger team. The Warriors have too many shooters and quick guards for the Lakers to sleep defensively and hope to win the game.
2. Defend the perimeter: Golden State have no tanks to send inside the paint which could only mean that they can only attack from above with their mortar guns. If the Lakers make it hard for the Warriors to get a decent shot, then Golden State can’t harm them.
3. Man the boards: Contested or hurried jumpshots more often than not result in missed shots, which means there will be plenty of bricks raining down. The Warriors expect this, so their rebounders are prepared to come in and fight for those extra possessions. The Lakers can’t allow that to happen.

Game Info

Staples Center: Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. (PST). TV: FoxSports West (Regional)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN.


Other Notes: Phil Jackson has his own nickname for the Laker bench. He calls them “Renegades”.

Not a bad nickname, Phil. But I kinda like “The Killer Bs” better. It’s catchier!

Preview: Warriors vs. Lakers

Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers (24-6) went to Phoenix, Arizona last night and got Sun burned by the league’s No. 1 offense by 15 points. Tonight, they face the NBA’s No. 2 offense and the second worse team the Golden State Warriors (9-21). Now before you say this is an automatic “W” for the Lakers, I’d like to point out that the Warriors have just beaten both the Suns and the Celtics by outscoring Phoenix 132-127 and holding Boston to 99 points.

The purple and gold might very well still win this game, but Golden State’s confidence is high right now. That and the Lakers playing their worst basketball of the season say tonight’s matchup could be interesting.

The Lakers are 8-3 at home, and the Warriors have lost 14 of their 17 road games. This is the second meeting between the two teams and the last at Staples Center. The Lakers smacked the Warriors by 33 points back in Nov. 28. So Golden State has an extra motivation tonight.

There is no word yet of Ron Artest‘s availability tonight, but at the same time the Laker cannot expect to have him either. After last night’s game, Phil Jackson commented on Artest’s absence as one of the keys to Phoenix’s victory because there was no one else he could use to defend 37-year old Grant Hill.

I say that’s a bunch of you know what. He could’ve had Kobe Bryant defend Hill and had Shannon Brown at the 2 spot. Instead, he inserted Lamar Odom into the starting lineup making the Lakers bigger but much slower against the best run-and-gun team. Hate to say it but I think PJ outsmarted himself on that one.

But it’s time to move on for the Lakers and concentrate on what they can do against the Warriors. Golden State may be behind the Suns in offense, but they have more shooters than Phoenix — a good reason why they defeated the Suns on Saturday.

They got rid of their best gun in Stephen Jackson last month but got two hired gunmen in return. Raja Bell may be 33 years of age, but he can still shoot the ball. His defense is a plus for this team desperately in need of a player who doesn’t need much help guarding someone. But his history with Kobe makes him a potential reason to their undoing. Remember when Bell clotheslined Kobe in Game 5 of the opening round of the 2006 playoffs then called him a “pompous and arrogant” player after the game? Raja didn’t play the last game because of a wrist injury, but Kobe will get his first crack at him tonight.

Vlade Radmanovic is only averaging 7 points a game this season, but he loves playing against the coach that called him a “space cadet.” Interestingly enough, Radmanovic was the leading rebounder for the Warriors against the Lakers in that first game.

Despite their 2-game winning streak, Golden State is 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Lakers should remind them of that tonight by doing what they were supposed to do against the Suns to them — use their size, play hard defense, and maintain a slow tempo throughout. The Lakers have never lost more than one game in a row since losing to Denver and Houston early this season. So this game is another gut-check for them and will certainly say a lot about this team either way.

When they’re playing with focus, the Lakers have the most devastating defense in all of professional basketball. Scoring has never been a problem for this team, but having the top defense in the league is one of their biggest improvements this year because they worked hard at it. They need to remember that.

They also can’t forget that everyone is out to get them because they are the Lakers and the defending champs. So gutting out a win will almost always be the case for them everytime they decide not to play their best against any team.

Tonight is no different.

Tip-off is at 7:30. TV: FoxSports West  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN


Injury Update: Artest will miss his third game tonight, according to the Lakers. Ron is still going to his neurologist daily, but the exact date of his return has yet to be determined. However, there’s a possibility he will be cleared to play after tonight’s game when the Lakers face Houston on Jan. 5th at Staples Center.

Let’s all hope he’ll be ready to go next Tuesday. His absence is causing a lot of problems namely the Lakers are forced to rely on the bench more than they would like to.