Warriors Look To Clinch Playoff Berth, Take On Lakers: Game Preview


The Golden State Warriors look to clinch a playoff berth against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This article should have been an afterthought, an obligatory ‘here’s what’s on tonight’ to bookend an inevitable rash of celebratory posts about Golden State securing its first back-to-back postseason appearance since 1992.

“Who is the Warriors Best Playoff Matchup?”; “How Stephen Curry Changed the Franchise”; “Mark Jackson: Most Successful Warriors Coach Ever?” – that is the clickbait you should be reading as you nurse a craft beer-induced hangover in your cubicle this morning. Something that will prime your punkish affection for the Warriors in anticipation of a first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs.

Through 47 minutes and 59.5 seconds of last night’s stunner against the Denver Nuggets, I had every intention of writing that obligatory, half-hearted preview of tonight’s game.

Then, the Warriors happened. Surrendering a 20-point lead happened. Losing the rebounding battle to Timofey Mozgov happened. Kenneth Faried backing down Draymond Green at the elbow for a last chance turn-around semi-hook shot happened. Another home loss to a sub-.500 team happened.

And now, you’re stuck here, reading a 500-odd word post on Golden State’s chances against the absolutely dreadful Los Angeles Lakers, who walk into tonight’s contest sporting a 25-53 record on the heels of a 145(!)-130 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

Should the Warriors win, locking up a postseason berth? Absolutely. Will they? Well, we certainly thought they would last night, didn’t we?

Golden State is certainly favored. The Lakers’ likely starting lineup– Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall – has only been used in three games this season and shoots 41.2 percent from the floor, according to NBA.com statistics. The lineup is similarly woeful defensively, allowing 65.5 percent shooting from opponent.

Even if the Lakers had a healthy Pau Gasol (vertigo) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), Los Angeles has gone just 1-2 against the Warriors this season, their only win coming in a November game in which their bench outscored Golden State’s by 29 points. The Warriors were missing All Star point guard Stephen Curry at the time, and the engine of the Lakers second unit barrage – Steve Blake – now wears blue and gold.

Golden State enters without David Lee, who is still recovering from nerve damage to his leg and back. Though problematic, it’s likely that Lee’s absence was a greater factor against Denver than it will be against the Lakers, whose rebounding suffers without Gasol and Chris Kaman.

Even though they struggled to score for much of the contest last night, Klay Thompson and Curry should have no problem dismantling the Lakers backcourt, which cannot contain opposing guards. On Tuesday, James Harden of the Rockets went off for 33 points on 10-of-15 shooting in just 31 minutes of play against the starting tandem of Meeks/Marshall. If Iguodala or Green (or both) feel their stroke in the early minutes, the Lakers will have a hard time accounting for Golden State’s spacing.

All told, the Warriors should secure a playoff berth tonight. With just four games remaining and the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns desperate for a shot at Golden State’s sixth seed, the team does not have much breathing room.

Hopefully you’ll get to nurse that craft beer hangover tomorrow instead.