The Golden State Warriors are the most popular team in the NBA as they are currently on a three-game winning streak, which I’m pretty sure no other team has managed all season.
Today we’re avoiding the traditional preview and instead checking out Warriors opponent Los Angeles Lakers.
You know all about the Lakers – they have LeBron James, they are the defending champs, Anthony Davis is injured, and the Warriors beat them earlier this year. But to tell you even more about the team that all Dubs fans love to hate, I sat down with my colleague Harrison Faigen, affectionately known to SB Nation as the “Spike Lee of the Lakers.”
In addition to wearing three jars of Lakers exceptionalism on every brightly colored Lakers outfit, Harrison is the man in charge at our sister Lakers site, Silver Screen and Roll.
So I picked your brain to see how the Lakers are doing ahead of tonight’s game, which takes place at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN.
Q: The Lakers have been good, but not dominant. Are they saving a team for the playoffs or is growth necessary if they want to repeat?
Harrison: I think it’s definitely fair to say that the Lakers are saving something for the playoffs, but maybe not in the way that most would associate with defending champs. This team actually beat all the contestants early in the season even though it seemed like they were only trying for about 18 minutes or so in each game, and despite their recent struggles and much panic over their “lack of protection from rim, “they still have. writing – posted the league’s best defensive efficiency.
That being said, I think it’s also fair to say that they also have a bit of room to grow, and that the problems they’ve had are not just due to exertion or injuries. They have been the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA for half the season right now, and their overall offense ranks in the bottom half of the league. Some of that will improve in the playoffs. They entered the postseason last year throwing the second-worst percentage from deep in the league in their last 15 games, so they run hot and cold, and when LeBron James and Anthony Davis put things on a level and start creating even more open shots – and the coaching staff comes up with a specific game plan for each opponent rather than the more vanilla strategies they’ve stuck to at the moment – things will be better.
How much better will depend on health, and if they can find some ways to make this list fit a little better than it has been so far. The talent is there to repeat, but strangely for a team with LeBron, they have some offensive things to figure out.
Q: How have the Lakers looked in the absence of Anthony Davis?
Harrison: Bad. Sorry, did you want more than that? (Editor’s note: honestly no. We can happily leave it to ‘the Lakers are bad’).
In all seriousness, Davis’ courage has been on full display while he’s gone. Despite talk that the Lakers are better for advanced numbers when he sat down than when he played last season, his absence has shown that the visual test is more accurate in showing what he gives this team.
However, it is not just Davis’ defense. Without him and Dennis Schröder, the Lakers had a serious shot-creation deficit. During the bubble, Davis proved he can be one of the league’s deadliest isolation scorers, tall enough to shoot smaller players like folding chairs and fast enough to beat traditional greats on dribbling with ease. . They’ll need that guy back if they want to go anywhere this year (duh), and that’s why they’re sure to continue to take it easy as he recovers from his Achilles tendon and calf injuries.
Q: How do you think a playoff matchup between these two teams would play out?
Harrison: Assuming both sides are healthy? Lakers in five. Stephen Curry is dangerous enough to win a game over the Warriors (Editor’s note: Harrison has trouble counting, I’m pretty sure he meant ‘four’) and Draymond Green will uncover some shenanigans to knock the Lakers out of their game at times, but this team is a monster when they’re firing full blast, and I’m not sure the Warriors have enough men to stop them. . I know the Warriors have been better than expected on defense, but I just have faith that the Lakers will find personnel-related holes to make, and they have enough guys to annoy Steph and at least make the game challenging for him. , even if it averages. 30.
Q: Should LeBron James be considered the MVP favorite?
Harrison: My answer would have been “yes” if you had asked me this at the time of the first Lakers-Warriors meeting, but right now I would definitely say no. This stretch without Davis and Schröder, fair or not, will be used like a plague on his resume at the end of the season, and with how poorly the Lakers have played the last 10 games overall, I imagine. Joel Embiid (at least) has gotten over it for now.
Does that mean I don’t think LeBron can win? Absolutely not. His production (for the most part) has been excellent this season overall, and if he continues at a good pace, he will have the box score stats needed to be in the conversation. The Lakers will probably have to move up the rankings if they really want to win, but I think if those things are in place, there seems to be a good chunk of the media that wanted to preemptively declare him MVP. year because of the narrative that he didn’t win the latter, and especially after what the postseason was like last year for him and Giannis Antetokounmpo. LeBron knew who his real audience was when he talked about how upset he was that so few outlets were voting for him, I’ll tell you.
If the Lakers don’t get it, that won’t be enough, but I think there is a desire from some voters to appreciate it on the way out, judging by many of the public opinions I saw from insiders who voted. in these things.
Q: Should the NBA do more to create a competitive balance, or are you at peace with the idea that you will never be able to match a huge market giant like the Utah Jazz?
Harrison: It’s going to be tough. The Lakers’ little family store was chosen and overlooked at all times last year. Charles Barkley guaranteed they would lose in the first round. Several experts thought the Rockets would beat them in the second. The tendency continued in the Western Conference Finals, but the brave Lakers persisted again. After their recent loss to the giant Jazz, people write them off again at their own risk. However, #WeBelieve
(Editor’s note: this section was never cleared up with me and I invite you to relentlessly embarrass Harrison in the comment section)
Q: Who do you have winning this match?
Big thanks to Harrison for letting us all know how those adorable losers from the NBA’s smallest market are doing. If you want to keep up with the Lakers during the game, or just find a second platform to harass him for posting that graphic, be sure to follow him (@hmfaigen).
And for those of you looking for my keys to victory before the game, you can find them at our Twitter before the start.