Kurtenbach: Why Steph Curry’s Warriors will beat LeBron James’ Lakers in 6 games

Well, hello, old friend.

It’s funny to see you over here, in the Western Conference playoffs.

Anyway, a yellow jersey suits you well, LeBron. What do you say, first to four wins again?

I don’t think it should take the Warriors more than six games to get there.

Coming off the Warriors’ seven-game first-round classic with the Kings, this confidence level in Golden State might seem misplaced.

But that’s a credit to the Kings, who were built to give the Warriors fits — probably because they were built in the mold of the Warriors. Yes, the Kings knew every move the Warriors would make and made excellent adjustments throughout the series. It wasn’t until the second half of Game 7 that the Warriors’ biggest advantage — experience — shone through.

The Lakers do not present the same kind of challenges to the Warriors. And while Golden State will need outstanding play from the team’s new triumvirate — Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and the immortal Steph Curry — there’s a reason the Dubs are strong favorites to win the series with Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Let’s go through them, shall we?

1. Let the Lakers shoot

(Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP) 

The Lakers started the season as a historically bad shooting team, but we’re not anchored to what we saw in October. No, the Lakers are a brand new team since the trade deadline, adding some legitimately solid pieces to the mix around LeBron and Anthony Davis. Those additions are why the Lakers are in the playoffs and playing the Warriors.

Yes. in this case, new is better. But let’s not get carried away by what these guys can do.

The Lakers have played seven postseason games, including one nasty play-in game win. In those seven games, the Lakers have an effective field goal percentage of 51.5, which would have been the NBA’s worst in the regular season.

No, the Warriors weren’t much better against the Kings, but they were also playing a different style than they’re used to playing in that series. The Lakers didn’t have to make any significant adjustments from the regular season, yet they shot 31 percent from beyond the arc against Memphis.

And while LeBron shooting 19 percent from beyond the arc (on 41 attempts) hurt the average, the Lakers’ others still shoot 33.5 percent from 3. Not exactly an elite clip.

Meanwhile, will Klay Thompson (35 percent from 3) stay cold? What about Andrew Wiggins (27 percent) or Jordan Poole (25 percent)? Those are two high-volume 40 percent 3-point shooters and a 39 percent shooter in last year’s playoffs, and they’re lying dormant.

The Kings did a great job making those guys work until their shots came up short. Not everyone can be Steph Curry.

But only one needs to get going to shift the series in the Warriors’ favor.

And it’s more likely that will happen, because the Lakers want to play it slow. The Warriors will get to set the pace in this series.

If the NBA is really just a 3-point shooting contest these days, the Warriors will make easy work of the Lakers.

2. The Anthony Davis conundrum

(Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

If Lakers center Anthony Davis wants to win this series for the Lakers, he might be able to do it.

As great as Kevon Looney has been in the postseason and as brilliant as Draymond Green is as a defender, some big men are unguardable for the Warriors, and Davis — when fully engaged — is one of them.

But no one should trust Davis either to be the Lakers’ alpha in this series or to stay healthy for the duration of it.

The Lakers’ tall man (the title of big man only comes when he plays big, which is rarely) already has a hip injury that hampered him in the last round— the latest in a never-ending string of injuries throughout his career. He also had games in the Lakers’ series against the Grizzlies where he decided he wasn’t interested in spending much time in the paint, even though Memphis was down two of its three top interior defenders and the one that remained — Jaren Jackson Jr. — is notorious for picking up fouls.

If Davis shoots jumpers or 3-pointers, the Warriors will win this series. He’s a woeful shooter.

If Davis decides to put a team on his back for the first time in his 11-year career and win a real playoff series with old-school low-post play, the Warriors have a big problem.

But I wouldn’t bet on the latter happening four times out of seven games — especially with the Warriors playing four of those games at home.

3. The LeBron Factor

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) 

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No, this series is going to come down to LeBron James. And while the NBA’s all-time leading scorer is doing impressive things in his 20th NBA season, he is unquestionably a lesser version of himself.

But LeBron will likely have to do it all for this Lakers team as they take on stiffer competition.

At this point in his career, he should be the facilitator, the gap-filler, and the change-of-pace option to Davis. He is a player that now only has spurts of unstoppable play and rations them throughout a series.

He had to tap into the quota against Memphis often. That panned out, but it took a whole lot out of him, too. There were games in that series where James refused to drive for long periods, moving the ball around the perimeter and standing or taking ill-advised 3-pointers (he was 8-for-41 in the series) instead. Those were wasted possessions that Golden State will punish.

But LeBron is in a pickle here: Davis can’t be trusted to pull his weight, and he now has to play a game every other day against a Warriors team that can throw three, perhaps four different bigger-wing bodies at him (Green, Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody).

That won’t just be physically exhausting; it will be mentally exhausting, too.

James will have his moments, if not entire games. He’s too great to write off. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he came out and claimed Game 1 — it’s the most rested he’ll be for the series.

But in the end, LeBron will feel like he’s back in Cleveland, circa 2017 and 2018 — he won’t have enough around him to take down the Dubs night after night.


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