The Warriors haven’t played the Los Angles Lakers in a meaningful game since Golden State was eliminated from the Western Conference semifinals last May.
But that will change tonight at Chase Center.
Yes, an entire half-season has gone by without a Steph Curry versus LeBron James headlining duel. But both teams have struggled mightily since the California rivals met for the first time under the postseason spotlight, where James’ Lakers bounced Curry’s Warriors from the playoffs to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers come into today’s game as the nine seed with a 23-23 record, and the Warriors are out of the play-in picture with a 19-23 record. But it’s a hot ticket. According to secondary ticket sale site VividSeats, the average $617 ticket price for a seat at Saturday’s game at Chase Center is the highest of any NBA game or event this year.
Both teams are in similar situations — trying to build a contender around aging superstars — but with polar opposite approaches. Both have landed in mediocrity. Here’s how it all happened.
Last year’s Lakers run was mostly fueled by a massive three-team deadline trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz. The Lakers dealt Russell Westbrook and a host of picks for D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to surround James and Anthony Davis. The sparked a Los Angeles run that pushed them from the 13th spot in the West to a seventh seed and play-in berth.
Now, that fresh look looks to have run its course and the Lakers are popping up in trade rumors for another new look. Los Angeles has relied far too much on 39-year-old James to carry the weight along with Davis with few of their supporting cast able to pick up the slack as they did last year. Russell — who has been with four different teams in his nine-year career — is among the names swirling in rumors.
The Lakers are a .500 team and the numbers are emblematic of that mediocrity. Their 114.4 defensive rating is just above league average. And their desperate search for some perimeter scoring to keep up with the fire-power around the league last season has fallen short with only 29% of their points scored coming from the 3-point line, which is second-lowest in the NBA.
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The Warriors acted swiftly in the offseason to address their turnover issues and correct what they saw as a glaring chemistry problem that led to their first playoff elimination before the Finals in the Steve Kerr era by trading Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul.
This trade certainly hasn’t been a quick fix. The Warriors are 19-23 and in the 12th seed because of a mis-cast roster that’s struggled to close the gap between its young budding players and older, championship-bred core. The off-court compatibility appears stronger, despite Draymond Green’s inability to avoid suspension. But the on-court chemistry is lacking as younger, more athletic teams often beat them at their own shooting game.
With tragedy still omnipresent, the Warriors rumors have been silent on the trade deadline front despite a few murmurs that most every player is on the table except Curry.
Both storied franchises will meet at the apex of this season, a few weeks before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. How the game goes could be a litmus test for both franchises.