LeBron James jumper vs GSW

Lakers vs. GSW, Play-In Game, Three Things to Know: May 19, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (42-30) face the Warriors (39-33) at Staples Center on Wednesday evening. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN with the pre- and postgame shows on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

PLAY-IN BASICS
- The winner becomes the No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 Phoenix.
- The loser hosts the winner of the No. 9 (Memphis) vs. No. 10 (San Antonio) game on Friday evening, and that winner becomes the No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 Utah.

Last season, as the No. 1 seed, the Lakers awaited the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game, when Portland beat Memphis to advance to face the Lakers in Round 1. This year’s play-in was expanded to include the 7-10 seeds.

LAKERS HEALTH
The obvious reason that the Lakers are in the play-in game in the first place has been the multiple absences by key players throughout the season, especially LeBron James (45 of 72 played), Anthony Davis (36) and Dennis Schroder (61). While Davis and Schroder have pretty well established their health since returning, LeBron has played just four games since March 20. He was moving quite well in the B2B against Indiana and New Orleans, and was very productive, though he did tweak his ankle with six minutes left in the finale before checking out.

“It was a lil’ tweak, I stepped on (Nikiel Alexander-Walker’s) foot on the way down after that last layup, but I’ll be fine,” said LeBron. “(I feel) pretty good (overall). For where I am right now, after sitting out for as long as I did … I had a lot of explosion. Defensively I was able to play the passing lanes a few times, get out on the break, make some cuts, get into transition. So, came out pretty well.”

And so, with LeBron’s health seemingly about as good as it could be expected entering the play-in game, he was asked about his approach to the contest. It’s the one type of NBA scenario that even he hasn’t seen before.

“I’ve always treated Game 1 as a feel-out game, but you don’t have the luxury in a play-in game, so we just gotta play to the best of our ability. We have to play Lakers basketball.”

Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t have missed Klay Thompson much more during the regular season, but they knew he’d be out. They’re also without James Wiseman (meniscal surgery right knee), Damion Lee (Health and Safety protocols) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (left wrist).

CONTAINING STEPH CURRY
Two-time MVP Steph Curry is coming off one of the best stretches of his career, with bulging offensive numbers in May, leading the Warriors to an 8-1 record:

Curry in May
36.8 PPG, 45.2% FG’s, 39.3% 3’s, 6.6 3PM, 16.9 3PA, 89.5% FT’s, 5.6 APG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 34.6 MPG

There may only be two other players that can threaten a defense from the perimeter the way that Curry does, even if not quite as consistently as him: Damian Lillard and James Harden. The Lakers did a terrific job making their lives difficult in Round 1 and Round 2 last postseason, using a combination of close coverage from a lock-and-trailing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plus frequent traps from the other guard or wing spot, with bigs like Anthony Davis waiting to come over and help further, or to take away the rim. L.A. also had success against Curry in three regular season matchups, two of which were blowout Laker wins (117-91, 128-97) and the other a GSW win where LAL blew a 14-point 4th Q lead.

Curry vs. LAL
23.0 PPG, 42.3% FG’s, 34.6% 3’s, 3.0 3PM, 8.7 3PA, 94.1% FT’s, 5.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 30.3 MPG

It’ll be hard for Curry to maintain his May form against the NBA’s No. 1 defense, and one with players like LeBron James who are quite experienced with him, but he’ll also surely play better than he did in the January, February and March regular season contests.

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