Editor’s Note: Our moderator BeautifulLakes decided to do a deep dive on all the times the Lakers and Warriors have met in the NBA playoffs now that the two sides are slated to match up once again in the 2023 Western Conference Semifinals. It turns out the history between the two is lengthier than you might realize, and long predates LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry.
1967 Western Division Semifinals
The Lakers and the Warriors have matched up in the playoffs as far back as 1967, in the West division semi-finals. Back then, the playoffs worked differently than they do today, and there were only two conference playoff series before the NBA Finals. There were the Division Semifinals (first to 3 wins), Division Finals (first to 4 wins) and then the NBA Finals (first to 4 wins).
In that division semifinal series, it was a best of 5. The San Francisco Warriors swept the Los Angeles Lakers, led by a young Rick Berry and Nate Thurmond. On the other side for the Lakers there was Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich.
1968 Western Division Finals
The next year, on their way to the NBA Finals to face the Celtics, the Lakers won 4-0 against the San Francisco Warriors. West and Baylor did lots of work. Carrying the team in averaging at least 30 points per game in the series. Baylor averaged 30 points per game, while West poured in 33 ppg of his own. The Warriors, meanwhile, did not have Rick Barry with the team.
1969 Western Division Semifinals
These two teams faced each other again the next year, and for the final time in the decade. At this point in the NBA playoffs there was still the division semi-finals and the division finals before getting to the NBA Finals. However, the Western division semifinals was now the best of seven, first to four wins format all series use today.
In this series the Warriors were up 2-0 before being swept out of the playoffs by the Lakers. Also, one notable addition to the Lakers was the 32-year-old Wilt Chamberlain to pair with a 30-year-old Jerry West and a 34-year-old Elgin Baylor. Again, as was the case for much of the '60s, the Celtics won against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
1973 Western Conference Finals
One year removed from winning an NBA championship in 1972 — infamously the season Elgin Baylor retired before the season started — the Lakers faced the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, so as usual the Conference Finals was the second round of the playoffs essentially, and they won 4-1 vs. the Warriors. During the season, Gail Goodrich was with the team again to fill the void of Elgin Baylor, and he scored 44 points in the closeout Game 5. In the NBA Finals rematch vs. the Knicks, the Lakers lost 4-1. This is the last time the Knicks won a championship at the time of this writing.
1977 Conference Semifinals
In a change to the playoff format, a first round of the playoffs is added in the 1975 postseason. In 1975 and 1976 it was only two teams in the first round in each conference in a best-of-3 series between the 4 and 5 seeds for both conferences. Whoever won got the honor of facing the 1 seed in the playoffs, while the 2 and 3 seeds faced each other in a best of 7 in the conference semifinals.
This format of two teams facing each went on until the 1977 playoffs, where the 1 and 2 seeds got a bye to the second round and the 4-5 and 3-6 seeds faced each other in a best of 3 in the first round.
With several years having passed since the Lakers’ 1972 title, the championship coach from that team, Bill Sherman, is now an executive, while star player Jerry West is coaching the Lakers. In the 1977 playoffs, the Lakers were the 1 seed and the Warriors were the 4 seed.
So Kareem gets to rest and then in the conference semifinals, the Lakers have to go seven games versus the Warriors, but they do make it to the conference Finals. This Warriors team was top-heavy with talent but also featured lots of depth on their bench. The 1977 Warriors team had a returning Rick Barry at the age of 32, Jamaal Wilkes at the age of 23, Robert Parish at the age of 23 and a solid bench of Phil Smith, Gus Williams, Charles Johnson and Clifford Ray, but ultimately came up short vs. their California co-habitants.
1987 Western Conference Semifinals
It would take another decade for the Lakers and Warriors to face off in the playoffs again, now in the middle of the Showtime era. At this point Pat Riley is the coach, and Jerry West is the executive. At this point, the Lakers were at the height of their powers with Kareem, Magic and James Worthy, with the depth of Michael Cooper, AC Green, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott, West Matthews and Mychal Thompson. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors in 1987 had Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll averaging about 20 each for the team, with a developing Chris Mullin, who would be important in a few years for the next and final time the Lakers faced the Warriors until 2023. Lakers won in 5 games.
1991 Western Conference First Round
The last time the Lakers faced the Warriors before the modern era was in the Run TMC era of the Warriors, while the Lakers were winding down from the Showtime era. This was probably the most exciting era up to this point in terms of perception of the Warriors, with Tim Hardaway, Mitch Ritchmond and Chris Mullin showing that three-guard lineups are not just a modern invention. The Lakers had a mix of the showtime era with Magic, Byron Scott and James Worthy with lots of young role players like Vlade Divac and Elden Campbell. The Lakers won 4-1, eventually losing in the NBA finals to Michael Jordan and the emerging bulls dynasty.
The one connective tissue from that 1991 matchup to this one? A 36-year-old Mychal Thompson was on that team, and had just welcomed a son the year before: Klay Thompson, now one of the best players on this Warriors team in 2023. History coming full circle.