The Lakers begin their longest road trip of the season in Golden State, where they will take on the Warriors. This will be the first time the purple and gold will face the Warriors this regular season since eliminating them from the NBA Playoffs last May.
Start time and TV schedule
When: 5:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 27
Where: Chase Center
The Lakers’ dominant win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday proved that there’s still indeed a lot of fight in this team. They looked determined to avoid losing to this zombie Bulls team twice this season and it was one of those games where they played up to their potential.
The first three quarters against the Bulls were genuinely some of the most fun basketball the Lakers have played this season, and play like that had a lot to do with why they beat the Warriors in the semifinals last May. Let’s break it down:
The OG starting lineup
D’Angelo Russell — who continued his hot streak, scoring 29 points on 8-13 3-point shooting — was the best player for L.A., but Jarred Vanderbilt was nearly as impactful.
In 26 minutes off the bench, Vando put up his season-high of 17 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. However, the most impressive part about the forward’s performance wasn’t visible on the stat sheet, as it was his defensive energy that sparked the Lakers’ 15-3 run to close the first half.
Watching Vando play defense > pic.twitter.com/1RNJyH5VaN— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 26, 2024
D’Angelo Russell on Jarred Vanderbilt: “Make sure y’all give Vando some love. He played his ass off tonight.”— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 26, 2024
The aforementioned run that the Lakers put together to end the half was not just spearheaded by Vando, however. It was the reunification of the lineup of Russell, Austin Reaves, Vanderbilt, LeBron James and Anthony Davis; the same starting group that got them past the Warriors in the second round of last season’s playoffs. Believe it or not, Thursday was the first time Darvin Ham rolled with this lineup again, much to the delight of Lakers fans like me who have been wondering all year why he has shied away from this unit.
What’s ironic is that during pregame, the head coach was asked why he turned away from this lineup and Ham basically said that Taurean Prince — who took Vando’s spot in the starting lineup this season — has just been healthier and is a more competent 3-point shooter.
Darvin Ham explains why the Lakers have not used last year’s playoffs starters of LeBron, AD, Vando, Reaves and D-Lo as of yet this season pic.twitter.com/XMMDSkaRey— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 26, 2024
While Prince has definitely been healthier and is a more competent 3-point shooter compared to Vando, it’s still head scratching to think about why it took Ham 46 games to play the starting lineup that went deep in the playoffs last season. Note that Vanderbilt has also been healthy since December 2.
Now that this lineup has finally seen the floor together this season, it’ll be interesting to see how often Ham goes back to it for the remainder of the year. Will this unit play against the Warriors on Saturday? That’s something worth looking out for.
Zooming into the Warriors
Speaking of what to look out for, the Lakers are stumbling upon a Warriors team that has lost four out of their last six games and has underperformed this season. Surprisingly, Golden State is only 12-12 at home this year, and haven’t played well consistently all year. They’re still really good on offense (117.3 offensive rating) but atrocious on the defensive end where they’re at the bottom tier (118.0 defensive rating) in the league.
One thing to note about the Warriors’ defense is that like the Lakers, they give up a lot of 3-point attempts so hopefully the Lakers shoot lights out on Saturday. This is the perfect time for Russell to convert 8 out of his 11 shots again, but more importantly for the Lakers to feast inside the paint. This Warriors team had no answer for Davis in the postseason, so it would be ideal for AD to impose those problems against them again.
For as long as the Lakers contain Stephen Curry and Jonatan Kuminga — who now has the potential to go off every night — then they should be good. The Lakers’ ability to keep up with the Warriors’ offense will play a significant factor in this one and if they play like the team that has won four out of its last six games, then we should see a repeat of what went down in the Western Conference Semifinals last season.
Let’s see if the Lakers come out victorious in the semifinals rematch on Saturday.
Notes and Updates:
- For the Lakers’ injury report, Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy) and LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) are listed as questionable.
- Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) — who will be re-evaluated in two weeks — is noted as out, as well as Gabe Vincet (left knee surgery).
- Rookie Maxwell Lewis (non-Covid illness) has been upgraded to probable.
- As for the Warriors, Moses Moody (left calf strain), Chris Paul (left hand fracture) and Gary Payton II (left hamstring strain) won’t be available.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani