The Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors are booked for a head-on collision in the Play-In before the postseason. This is surprising considering that the Lakers lifted the NBA trophy last year, but injuries to key stars have dropped them in the rankings. More importantly, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are once again battling it out after the regular season.
LeBron James has left the final game of the season for the Lakers with a rolled ankle, and there are doubts about his ability to stay healthy before the postseason. Not to mention, Stephen Curry is playing like the best player in the league by leading the NBA in scoring at 32.0 PPG. Even LeBron James has admitted that Curry looks like the MVP of the league at this stage.
But if the Lakers are healthy, they have a massive advantage over the Warriors. Golden State have the best point guard in the world and a Defensive Player of the Year talent in Draymond Green, but Los Angeles will have the most confidence entering that matchup. With the season officially at an end, here are the 5 reasons the Lakers will defeat the Warriors and progress to the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
5. Championship Pedigree
The Lakers have championship pedigree, meaning they got the job done in the biggest stages. They took out Portland in the first round last year when Damian Lillard was on fire, and even manhandled the Rockets after Houston took Game 1 in the second round. Or course, the Lakers would make nice work of Denver and Miami to win the chip. No matter the circumstances, the Lakers have proved they can get the job done.
Against the Warriors in a do-or-die game, it is almost certain that Los Angeles will show up at their best. With LeBron James on the roster leading the pack, the Lakers can make adjustments to the circumstances and that means Golden State will be up against the reigning champions in the world with their backs against the wall.
4. Lakers Have Something To Prove, Golden State Don't
With so much attention paid to the Nets, Suns, and Jazz; people are forgetting about the Lakers. Los Angeles have seemingly fallen off the radar and most people are doubting their ability to contend this year. After all, it is rare for a 7th seed to win an NBA title. Even though superstars don't readily admit it, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have heard the criticism.
Doubting NBA champions never ends well because they have a chip on their shoulder which is bad news for the Warriors. Nobody expects much out of Golden State this year and the only reason they haven't tanked the season is that Curry is playing like an MVP candidate. The Warriors don't have much to prove but the Lakers do, meaning Los Angeles have the most motivation with more to lose.
3. The Lakers Have Added Legitimate Firepower To The Roster This Season
The focus of Los Angeles is always on LeBron and Anthony Davis, but their roster is stacked with talent. The addition of Montrezl Harrell shocked the world, as he was one of the key pieces of the Clippers roster. Dennis Schroder is also a major addition, and there are reports he is generating interest from other teams for big money.
Not to mention, Andre Drummond is on the roster. Even though he isn't an All-Star anymore, Drummond is having another strong year averaging 17.5 PPG and 13.5 RPG. His addition greatly improves the team since Marc Gasol hasn't done a great job on the roster this year. The Lakers have a ton of size and talent at every position, which gives them a major advantage when some of the shooters such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Wesley Matthews aren't hitting shots.
2. The Warriors Have Stephen Curry… But Not Much Else
With the Lakers having a deep squad, the Warriors truly don't. Unless Curry goes off for 50 points in the game, the Warriors will struggle to find a consistent way to burn the Lakers. When Los Angeles is zoned in on defense, they are a handful. Head coach Frank Vogel is a defensive specialist and adding Andre Drummond makes their interior defense even more formidable. This means Curry's drives will be met with heavy resistance.
Outside of leading scorer Stephen Curry (31.8 PPG), the Warriors don't have much else. Draymond Green is the second most recognizable name on the roster but he's only averaging 6.9 PPG although he is a great playmaker (8.9 APG). Andrew Wiggins is also a solid scorer (18.6 PPG), but won't cause much concern against the Lakers unless he has an unusually hot game. Golden State's only chance is Curry going off for 45 or 50 points because they sorely lack in the talent department without Klay Thompson healthy.
1. When LeBron Is Healthy, Lakers Are Close To Unbeatable
Even with the Lakers falling in the Western Conference standings, they are close to unbeatable when The King is healthy. LeBron James is still the smartest and best all-around player in the world, and he is motivated to prove to everyone that father time is a myth to capture his 5th NBA championship. If LeBron ever wants to close the gap in the GOAT debate, he needs another ring.
The Lakers are the best team in the Western Conference when fully healthy, even if Phoenix and Utah have been the most consistent team. The Lakers have it all: size, defense, scoring, and leadership in all areas. Los Angeles, when LeBron James is healthy, are making the NBA Finals. That means even the greatness of Stephen Curry won't stand a chance, so Warriors fans better pray for an all-time great performance by their franchise star to have a chance to make the playoffs.