For the first time in their rich history, the Los Angeles Lakers will fight for a spot in the NBA Playoffs by way of a play-in tournament, and their first opponent, the Golden State Warriors, have arguably the greatest shooter of all time on their roster, Steph Curry.
The Lakers are confident as they’ve ever been in the talent that they have on their roster, but in a high-stakes game like Wednesday’s, they know better than to underestimate their competition, especially when their competition is led by a two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion in Curry.
“We’re playing someone that could potentially be the MVP of the NBA season,” Kyle Kuzma said after practice on Tuesday. “I think, for us, we have appropriate fear. I think that’s always important going into the playoffs: having that type of mindset going into games like this. Understanding that you can be beat and you can catch somebody on a hot night.
“We had a great practice today, great film session, everyone seems to be locked into what we need to do and understands how Golden State works and how they operate. We’re excited for the challenge.”
That challenge starts with containing Curry, a responsibility that, for the most part, will be taken up by the Lakers’ starting point guard Dennis Schröder, who held Curry to 6-19 shooting from the field in the 14 minutes he spent as his primary defender in the regular season.
“He’s the best shooter who’s ever played this game so, any shot, whatever, if it comes from half court on, it’s a good shot for him” Schröder said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make it as hard as possible and be into him and limits his threes.”
Schröder’s teammates aren’t expecting him or any of the Lakers’ guards to control Curry on their own, though — how could they? Through 62 games in the regular season, Curry averaged a career-high and league-leading 32 points per game on 48.2% shooting from the field and 43.3%
Instead, Anthony Davis said the Lakers will take a communal approach to guarding Curry.
“It’s going to be a team effort, not just all the pressure on the guards,’ Davis said.
But Davis doesn’t think Curry is the only player on the Warriors that the Lakers have to worry about.
“They’re playing extremely, extremely well,” Davis said. “Every guy that they’re playing is playing extremely well. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but if we execute our defensive schemes, then we should be able to get out of there with a W.”
The Lakers aren’t underdogs by any stretch of the imagination — in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a worse matchup for the Warriors in the Western Conference — but they’re not going to go into Wednesday’s game feeling entitled. They know what they have to gain as well as what a loss could mean.
“We know, obviously, it’s like a one-game thing right now,” Davis said. “We can’t afford to lose this game. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking the same thing even though it’s double elimination on our side. We definitely want to get in that seventh seed.”
The Lakers and Warriors will tip-off at 7 p.m. PT at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN.
Notes and updates
- The Lakers listed Anthony Davis (right shoulder sprain) as questionable and LeBron James (right ankle sprain) as probable on their injury report, but both James and Davis have said they’re going to play on Wednesday.
- We talked to Brady Klopfer of Golden State of Mind about how the Lakers match up with the Warriors and his predictions sounded more promising for the Lakers than they did the Warriors. Klopfer gave his extended thoughts on this week’s episode of “Talk-O Tuesday” with Alex Padilla and Alex Regla.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.