The play-in was a lifeline for the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in the previous edition. LeBron James played through an injured ankle, a massive first-half deficit, and compromised vision. The Lakers won 103-100.
Their nightmare continued for the Dubs as they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies the following game. They were beaten 117-112 in overtime.
Mind you, it was a season sans Klay Thompson. Draymond Green and James Wiseman practically missed the training camp in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. In short, it was an early break.
The Lakers went on the play the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. They were eliminated in Game 6 after Chris Paul’s scintillating performance saw them pip Los Angeles 113-100.
Everything changed this season for both sides. The Warriors are primed to win an NBA title if they continue to play in the same vein (not counting the last two consecutive losses against the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks).
The Lakers have an abysmal 26-30 record in comparison to the Warriors’ healthy 41-15. They’re ninth in the Western Conference standings
The acquisition of Russell Westbrook at the cost of trading off potential match-winners, assembling a veteran roster, and most notably, injuries to James and Anthony Davis have all but put their season in some serious trouble.
And come February 12, the two face off at Chase Center in a game that’s all about getting some momentum. This is only the second time they’ve played against each other after opening night when Stephen Curry & Co cruised to a 121-114 win.
For the Warriors who slumped to two consecutive losses against a consistent Utah and a lottery team like New York, they have a shot to get back to winning ways against a team that’s failed to gel well, has had perennial 3rd quarter and turnover issues that have seen them let games slip.
Not that the Lakers are pushovers. They’re anything but that. James has been the man shouldering the burden with Westbrook being Westbrook. He is averaging a team-high 29.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.
Golden State has 26 games left. They have enough to make a climb and finish the top seed. And they can. Wiseman is ramping up his on-court training while Green is a couple of weeks out from suiting up, but such has been the side’s consistency that they emerge favorites.
Los Angeles has the same number of games but will need to at least win close to 15 of those games so as to have a shot at making the first round of playoffs. It’s uncertain really, but not impossible.
If not doomed, safe to say, the Purple and Gold are heading towards certain doom. There is still Lakers faithful who firmly believe that the slight against Westbrook, the criticism against James and Davis might be enough to see a resurgence of sorts.
Only time will tell who emerges victor in a clash that kickstarts momentum. The Warriors will need it as a soothing balm, while the Lakers will hope that a win against a top-notch side will probably infuse life into what has been a disastrous campaign so far and hope to make it to the finish line.