Lakers vs. Warriors, Three Things to Know: 2-28-21

The Lakers (23-11) are set to face the Warriors (19-15) for a 5:00 p.m. tip off on Spectrum SportsNet as LAL look to avenge a huge 4th Q comeback by Golden State in the last meeting between these teams on Jan. 18.

Below are three things to know in advance of the matchup:

Back in January, the Lakers were in firm control of their MLK Day contest against GSW, holding a 64-48 lead at the half, a 92-81 lead after three and a 97-83 lead at the 11:12 mark of the fourth quarter after LeBron hit a deep three. L.A. appeared to be cruising to a sixth straight win to improve to 12-3 on the season … but the Warriors bench had other ideas. Kent Bazemore hit a 3; Eric Paschall scored a trio of buckets at the rim; and Damian Lee drilled a 3. Suddenly, it was a 6-point game with 8:37 to go. LAL managed to hold the lead for the next five minutes, until a pair of Steph Curry FT’s tied the game with 3:15 to play.

The Lakers might argue that they weren’t getting the benefit of doubt on several whistles, but that can happen when a team seizes momentum, and the Warriors went up 115-110 on Curry’s three with 1:07 to play, the biggest shot of the game. LeBron had a look at a game-winning three after his FT’s cut the margin to two, but it missed, and the Warriors did something that literally didn’t happen once last season: beat the Lakers when they led heading into the 4th Q.

The Lakers lost four straight games with Dennis Schroder out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and were happy to have the German back against Portland on Friday. His 22 points were second only to LeBron’s 28, and keyed by nine trips to the free throw line, all of which he made. Schroder’s activity on the defensive end was also helpful, with LeBron playing middle linebacker as the Laker guards corralled Damian Lillard in particular.

LeBron was fantastic on defense, notching four steals and three blocks for the 11th time in his career (four playoff games), and setting a tone that L.A. wouldn’t be losing a fifth straight game. After the win, James noted Schroder’s presence on both sides of the court.

“Dennis gives us an automatic spark,” said LeBron. “His energy alone gives us a spark. His competitive nature gives us a spark. Obviously we’ve been shorthanded as of late, so to have another body … to have him back in our lineup means so much to our team.”

If you had to pick an area to focus upon with LeBron James and Steph Curry matching up, you may first think of their vast array of offensive talents … but this season, their respective squads have been led by excellent defense. The Lakers continue to hold the No. 1 spot on that end with a rating of 105.8, while Golden State has improved to 4th at 108.5 behind their 3-game winning streak (NYK, IND, CHA). As mentioned, LeBron led the way defensively against Portland in L.A.’s last win, though for the season, there have been players up and down the roster contributing on that end. Draymond Green is GSW’s leader on the defensive side of the floor, and he’s vastly improved his play from his first game (Jan. 1), averaging 6.8 points, 11.3 assists and 8.0 boards in February compared to 4.8, 6.6 and 4.6 in January.

The two squads are also close in offensive rating due to L.A.’s slide across the last few weeks, as they rank 17th (110.9) to GSW’s 18th (110.4). The Lakers are clearly better than that, factoring in injuries, fatigue and their focus on the defensive end, while Golden State ranks 12th in offense in February, compared to 18th in January. The Warriors like to run, ranking 2nd in pace (103.6 possessions), and they move the ball really well, ranking 1st in assists (28.1). Meanwhile, the Warriors just welcomed rookie James Wiseman back into the rotation after he missed several games with a sprained wrist.

LAL will have to collectively replace 17 points, 17 boards and five assists plus three blocks and two steals from Anthony Davis in the initial matchup this season. Markieff Morris has started the last two games at the four, with Kyle Kuzma coming off the bench.