For the first time in a long time, we're pretty much even in the great NorCal vs SoCal rivalry and there are playoff implications. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors have a star with a tweaked ankle in Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry. Both teams have a frontline guy in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bogut who are coming back from injuries and affecting team chemistry. Both teams are ultimately vying for the coveted sixth seed in the NBA Western conference playoffs, separated by just 3.5 games, in avoidance of a first-round matchup against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
Lakers (36-34) at Warriors (40-31)
7:30PM PDT at Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
TV: CSN Bay Area and NBA TV | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Silver Screen And Roll
[PARTICIPATE IN THE GAME THREAD BELOW!]
Our SB Nation blog buddy SilverScreenAndRoll is concerned about the Lakers' perimeter defense, which comes as no surprise due to the age of the perimeter players. But even if you make comparisons position by position, for the first time in a long time with playoff implications, you can actually say that the Dubs have the firepower to not only match, but also exceed, that of the Lakers.
Obviously, Steph's ankle makes him "questionable", but knowing Steph and how Coach Mark Jackson operate, I would be very, very surprised if Steph sits this one out. First off, Steph said, "I'm fine." Secondly, MJ's modus operandi on these sort of things, as we saw with Bogut's back, is to evaluate the player pre-game with input from the player. Anybody out there think Steph's input will be anything other than, "Coach, I'm ready"? [Aside: sorry I don't have a link to the Bogut back spasm reference. I'm using my not-a-journalist-but-someone-who-has-a-regular-job-and-volunteering-to-write-this "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.]
So assuming Steph is starting, we have him matched up on the defensively challenged Steve Nash. Over at 2-guard, Klay Thompson, whose defense has been stellar (as lauded by Rusty Simmons) versus a less-than-100-percent Kobe should be awesome to witness. At the 3, the Dubs finally have a physical specimen in Harrison Barnes to matchup against Ron Artest, aka "Metta World War" per my buddy Nate. And then at pf there's David Lee vs Gasol, with Bogut vs Dwight Howard at center. YOU CAN'T ASK FOR A MORE EXCITING FIVE-ON-FIVE!!!
That leaves us with the bench. Really, this is where the Warriors ought to win the game. But will Jarrett Jack & Company step up? Antawn Jamison is expected to play and will he have a great game against his former team?
Let's face it. This might as well be a playoff game. One where the Dubs are at home and supposed to win (albeit there will be TONS of Lakers fans at Oracle tonight). The Warriors win, they'll be up 4.5 games on the Lakers in that 6th seed. Mess up, and the Warriors are only 2.5 games up. Note, the 5th seed is eight games away, so forget about that. As the 7th or 8th seed, you pretty much have no chance in a seven-game series against Elites like the Spurs or Thunder. After this game, the Lakers have the following games to close out the season: MIN, MIL, SAC, DAL, MEM, LAC, NOH, POR, GSW, SAS, and HOU. The Warriors have these: SAC, POR, NOH, PHX, UTA, MIN, OKC, LAL, SAS, and POR.
I'll be at the game tonight and will be tweeting as much as I can from the locker rooms. During the game I'll be on this thread. Hopefully there won't be a throng of reporters around Antawn, so I can get a better perspective on such a rare back-story opportunities that you look for not being a beatwriter, that stays under the radar. I'm probably wrong about that, though, because it will be a zoo at Oracle!