The Lakers get a rematch with the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, and I figured that instead of giving you my thoughts on this matchup, I could give you something better: An update on where the Warriors sit coming into this one from my colleague Brady Klopfer, a Warriors fan who — in addition to covering the Sparks for us — has actually watched all of their games and writes about them for our sister site, Golden State of Mind.
So with the Lakers set for their second game against the Warriors this season after losing by just two points in their first one, I asked Brady six questions about how his team has played so far, Stephen Curry’s MVP chances, what he expects from this matchup and more.
What follows is our brief exchange.
1. How have the Warriors played lately?
Brady: Despite the fact that they’re on a season-best three-game winning streak (a winning streak that, Harrison has forced me to point out, the Lakers have met or exceeded already four times this year), the Warriors’ play has been a bit all over the place.
They seem to fluctuate between dominance and confounding ineptitude on a possession by possession basis. But one thing is clear: They’re starting to figure it out. After a disastrous start to his Warriors tenure, Kelly Oubre Jr. is beginning to get comfortable within the team’s offense, and is suddenly making the right reads and scoring efficiently. After a battle with the coronavirus, Draymond Green is finally appearing to be in full health, and his recent play reflects it.
There are plenty of maddening moments every game but, on the whole, they’re starting to find their groove.
2. What is this team’s ceiling?
Brady: The ceiling feels like something between the Blazers and Rockets of the last few years. Which is to say, a team that can’t win it all, but that nobody wants to face. Steph Curry is arguably the best offensive player in the league, and Draymond Green is arguably the best defensive player (Editor’s Note: This is Alex Caruso erasure, but okay). If the role players click and find their comfort level, the Warriors can be really, really good.
Since Green had his minutes restriction lifted, the Warriors are fourth in defensive efficiency, per Cleaning The Glass. I don’t need to tell Lakers fans how dangerous an elite defense with an all-time great offensive player can be.
Realistically, the Warriors lack the depth and secondary firepower to make a serious run at another championship. But they can be good enough to make the second round and piss someone off once they get there.
3. How do you think a playoff matchup between these two teams would play out?
Brady: I think it would be very close on a game-by-game basis, and very not close in terms of the end result. I’m thinking Lakers in five, but with four of those five games being decided by single digits.
The Warriors’ biggest issue right now is that they have such a small margin for error. They have no reliable scorer beyond Curry. They’re good for 5-10 head-scratching possessions a game. They get eaten alive when Curry is the bench. They can be exploited by the right players and matchups.
And against a team like the Lakers, they’re simply starting behind the eight ball from a talent perspective.
It seems that these days, most of the Warriors losses are ones where you feel like they should have won. But at some point, that becomes a trend rather than a frustrating dose of bad luck, and we’re well past that point. Golden State doesn’t have the margin for error to beat a healthy Lakers team unless they play flawlessly, and you can’t rely on that.
4. Do you think Steph can make a run for the MVP?
Brady: Yes. Right now Curry’s numbers are strikingly similar to in his unanimous MVP campaign, and he’s got the highlights to keep himself on every voter’s radar.
The question is this: how good do the Warriors need to be for Curry to win? Right now Golden State’s record isn’t good enough, and it’s safe to say they’re already locked out of the top three. But if they can snag the fourth seed? It could be there for the taking.
Ultimately, the biggest thing against Curry’s MVP case — his team — can also be the biggest thing for his MVP case. He doesn’t have an Anthony Davis or Paul George on his team (even if you could make a semi-compelling argument that Green is more valuable than George right now). If the Warriors are within a stone’s throw of the Lakers/Clippers/Sixers, Curry seems as good a bet as anyone to take home the hardware.
5. How does it feel to know that LeBron is almost 40 and still better at carrying a team than Steph?
Brady: Not nearly as bad as it feels for me, a person very self-conscious of his rapidly increasing age, to realize that a coworker is calling a person who just turned 36 “almost 40.”
Jokes aside — and I don’t expect any of you to believe me — I love LeBron James. Always have. He’s at the very worst the second-best player in NBA history, a tremendous role model, and a sensational ambassador for the sport.
I’ve been terrified of the day where he no longer looks like the greatest player on the planet for about six years now, and somehow it has never arrived. I hope it stays that way until he’s “almost 50,” whatever that means in your weird definition of ages (Editor’s Note: The jury should note that he ducked the question).
6. Who do you have winning this matchup?
Brady: Oh yeah, the basketball game that we were supposed to talk about. Let’s do that, huh?
It’s funny. The Lakers with their exceptionalism and the Warriors with their light years arrogance are probably the two fanbases most hated for their self love. Yet you predicted the Warriors to win and I’m predicting the Lakers and oh my god you just changed your pick. So this is how you treat me? I say nice things to you, don’t take the LeBron bait, donate my entire year’s salary to your charity, and purchase you and your wife an all expenses paid 10-day vacation in Hawaii for Valentine’s Day, and this is how you repay me? I’m hurt, Harrison (Editor’s Note: Sorry).
Whatever, I’m keeping my pick. My reasoning is simple: Golden State is riding a three-game winning streak for the first time all year. It took them eight tries to win three straight. Eight tries! And I’m supposed to believe they can just rattle off a fourth like it’s nothing?
/Extreme Doris Burke voice: Come on now.
With Anthony Davis out, I think both of these teams are capable of beating anyone on any night and losing to anyone on any night. So no result here would shock me, from blowout wins for either team to a quadruple-OT thriller.
But I give the nod to the Lakers. After all, they’ve got that “almost 40” guy. I hear he’s pretty good.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 5:00 p.m. PT. You can catch the game locally on Spectrum SportsNet, or nationally on ESPN.
Big thanks to Brady for taking the time to catch us up on the state of the Warriors, and he’ll be running my thoughts on where the Lakers are at over at Golden State of Mind, so go check that out if you’re interested.
Now, on to some notes and updates heading into this game...
- In a rarity, the Lakers only have two names on their injury report: Anthony Davis (who is still out) and LeBron James who is probable with the left ankle sprain he’s been listed with for most of the season.
- After soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he should shut up and dribble, LeBron outlined why he’s never going to.
- New 10-day contract signing Damian Jones had seven hours to rent a car and make it from Phoenix to Los Angeles if he wanted a shot with the Lakers. He made it with 20 minutes to spare.
- And in case you missed it: I had a lot of fun talking to Anthony Davis the other day about Lakers film sessions, his health, chips and a whole lot more. Check it out if you haven’t already.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen, and Brady at @BradyKlopferNBA.