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Lakers vs. Warriors Game 5 Preview: One win away from the WFC

Can the Lakers knock out the Warriors out of the Playoffs in San Francisco to reach the Western Conference Finals?

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to start off my preview for Game 5 by saying this: If you told me last November, when the Lakers started their regular season with a record of 2-10, that I would eventually be writing about them in May just being one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals, I would’ve flat out thought you were intoxicated with vodka and were out of your mind.

But after months of what seemed like never-ending pain, losing and suffering, the Lakers continue to rally through what is now looking like the greatest turnaround in franchise history. Through grit, determination, selflessness, trust, defense, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Darvin Ham, leadership, and multiple role players stepping up when needed most, the Purple and Gold just need one more win to eliminate the reigning champions Golden State Warriors.

Thanks to the unsung hero of Game 4 in Lonnie Walker IV — who by the way, was buried on the bench and received multiple DNPs after the trade deadline — the Lakers have now positioned themselves in a golden spot where the Warriors have to beat them thrice.

For context, the Warriors are now 2-6 against the Lakers this season, including the Playoffs. The Lakers have also yet to lose back-to-back games since March. 18. They’re undefeated at home in the Playoffs (where they could play one more time if the series ends up going to six games) and they have LeBron James, who has a record of 39-12 in closeout games (17-0 when up 3-1) — tied with our very own Derrick Fisher for best in NBA Playoffs history.

All that said, for as impressive as the Lakers have been in the Playoffs thus far, they’re about to face their greatest challenge yet, and that’s closing out a series against the Warriors. Golden State is a dynasty for a reason and they’re not going to go out easy. What’s scarier is that the Warriors have Steph Curry, who in my opinion, is probably the most terrifying player to go up against right now when his back is against the wall.

Game 5 isn’t going to be easy by any means for the Lakers as they experienced it firsthand against the Memphis Grizzlies last round. As James stated in his walk-off interview in Game 4, Game 5 will be the hardest game of the series. So, what do the Lakers have to do to ensure at least one more win? Here are a couple of pointers worth taking note of:

Will the Lakers figure out the Warriors’ pick-and-roll game?

The Warriors’ biggest adjustment and advantage in Game 4 was their offensive game plan of running more pick-and-rolls. As I stated in my preview for Game 3, this is the best way for them to get AD (who has been phenomenal in defending the rim in this series) into high screens in order to deter him from the rim and paint. This enables Curry to attack the dribble and dump-off passes (he had 14 assists) to his teammates, which worked extremely well for them. They ran the action 24 times in the first half.

Then in the second half, the Lakers adjusted by assigning AD (who was guarding Garry Payton II for much of the first half) on Andrew Wiggins instead. The Warriors continued to run their potent pick-and-roll but to a lesser degree (6 times). Putting AD on Wiggins wasn’t the move that stopped them from doing it but somehow someway, the Dubs ended up settling for shots and choking a 12-point lead in the second half.

Now, the question moving forward for the Lakers is how will they be better prepared to cover the Warriors’ pick-and-roll game if they continue to do it in Game 5? Desperate times call for desperate measures and suffice it to say that Steve Kerr will go all out with his adjustments and coverages for this one. The Lakers will have to be prepared.

How will the Lakers approach this game?

Now that they’re up 3-1 in the series, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Lakers approach Game 5. Will they treat this as a must-win once again? Or will they coast in this one and just look forward to getting in the team plane and finish it off in Game 6 as soon as the buzzer sounds?

Note that Davis (371.2) and James (366.1) have logged in a lot of minutes since the Playoffs began. The same goes for Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green who just played their sixth straight playoff game on one day of rest in between. Obviously, Golden State is going to have to go all out again and the question is, will the Lakers do the same? Do the Warriors have enough legs to extend the series as far as seven games?

The best approach for the Lakers is to finish this series off as quickly as possible so they get the much-needed rest they deserve — especially now that it’s looking like the series between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns could potentially go as far as 7 games. It’s also one way to avoid any sort of injuries, which (knocks on wood) could happen anytime and anywhere.

Let’s see if the Lakers can finish the job in San Francisco and advance to the Western Conference Finals, as they look to deliver the last knockout punch on Wednesday.

Notes and updates

  • For the Lakers injury report, the team listed Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), LeBron James (right foot soreness) as probable.
  • Mo Bamba (left ankle soreness), who has now missed four straight games, is questionable once again.
  • Meanwhile, the Warriors will again be without Andre Iguodala (left wrist surgery) and Ryan Rollins (right foot surgery).
  • Patrick Baldwin Jr. (left toe soreness) is questionable.
  • For news around the league, the NBA announced its All-Defensive team for this season and sadly, AD didn’t get any love. Here’s who got the nov this season:

The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 7 p.m. PT. on Wednesday. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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