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Lakers vs. Warriors Preview: Two struggling teams desperate for a win

If the Lakers’ shooting isn’t going to make up for their poor defense (like it has prior to the past five games) then this could be another ugly one. 

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Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The last time the Lakers and Warriors went head-to-head was Feb. 12, barely a month ago. At the time, both teams were struggling and just wanted to get to the All-Star break. Both teams were also dealing with injuries to stars and were just trying to win games to get momentum.

Fast forward to three weeks and one alleged Klutch Sports vs. Lakers front office saga after, the Lakers and Warriors find themselves in the same spots they were the last time they faced off. Both are still dealing with injuries while they continue to struggle. Both the Lakers and Warriors are currently on three-game losing streaks and should be thankful that they’re facing each other on Saturday because hey, at least one team is going to snap their streak, right?

But unlike the Warriors, the Lakers don’t have room for error because they didn’t win enough games at the start of the season. Golden State did its job in collecting as many wins as they could earl on, so despite now only sitting one game above the third-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, they still find themselves in a good spot in the mediocre Western Conference standings.

That’s what happens when you actually win games at some point, Lakers!

So, here’s where the purple and gold find themselves: Barely hanging on to a spot in the play-in tournament, with the team’s spirit and pride nowhere to be found.

What’s worse is that their shooting struggles (something that’s hasn’t fully haunted them until now) are slowly creeping up on them, as our very own Alex Regla pointed out today. The Lakers have attempted 94 (!!) wide-open 3-pointers in the last five games — the fifth most in the league over that stretch — and have only converted 28.7% of them. It has been as brutal to watch as it sounds.

So, don’t be surprised if Steve Kerr tells his team to leave the Lakers wide open on the perimeter and focus on collecting rebounds instead — a category the bigger Lakers had no business losing in their last meeting.

Don’t be surprised if Jonathan Kuminga, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson have their best game of the season because the Lakers can’t close out and guard a parked car to save their lives, much less actual NBA shooters. And if they don’t get some hot shooting of their own to make up for their poor defense, then this will be another ugly loss.

And if the Lakers care at all on Saturday, they’ll play with as much effort as they did last February. But at this point, my preview beat partner Donny McHenry and I sound like broken records asking this team to please give a damn every game. This shouldn’t be the case for any “contending” team. It’s reached an all-time low, with things so bad that even Spencer Reaves (our favorite Lakers rookie Austin Reaves’ older brother) can’t help but call out the team’s collective IQ and effort 60 games into the season.

So, if the Lakers — who are considered 5.5-point underdogs for Saturday’s game, according to the latest odds from Draft Kings — have really decided that their season is over and they’re just playing out the string, none of the words above or below matter. But if they can learn anything from Golden State’s impressive season, L.A. should realize the importance of starting every regular season motivated and strong while racking up as many wins as they can. At this point, though, there is nothing to indicate that lesson is ever going to take.

Because while both teams may be struggling at the moment, at least the Warriors still find themselves in a good spot — and that’s a testament to their identity and how serious they’ve treated the regular season so far compared to the Lakers.

Notes and updates

  • The Lakers might catch a break on Saturday if Steph Curry continues to struggle. The greatest shooter of all time was held scoreless in the fourth quarter last Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks, who defeated them twice in one week. If Curry somehow gets out of his slump and finds his groove against the Lakers, however, it won’t be a surprise.
  • The Lakers are also going to stumble upon a struggling Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, all of whom who came up huge for the Warriors in their last meeting against the Lakers. Maybe the Lakers get lucky, and all three continue to have issues on Saturday. But if all of these three players somehow suddenly catch rhythm then once again, it won’t be a surprise. That’s the Lakers' defense for you!
  • In other news, the Lakers are listing Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) as out for Saturday’s game.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker (left ankle sprain) — who was a late-scratch for Thursday’s game — and LeBron James (left knee soreness/effusion) are questionable.
  • Avery Bradley (right knee effusion) is also listed as probable.
  • Lastly, Mason Jones (two-way contract) is going to be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • The Warriors will not have LeBron James’ new best friend Draymond Green (back) suiting up for them on Saturday. James Wiseman (knee), Gary Payton II (left knee soreness), and Andre Iguodala (back) will also not play.

The Lakers and Warriors will tip-off earlier than usual at 5:30 p.m P.T. Much to Charles Barkley’s chagrin, the game will be nationally televised on ABC.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation. And for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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