SAN FRANCISCO — The fifth postseason meeting between Stephen Curry and LeBron James will surely be tailor-made theater, but the outcome of the series could come down to how successful the Warriors are at limiting Anthony Davis’ impact.
The Warriors spent a lot of time Monday combing over the film to prepare for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals series. But coach Steve Kerr said the challenge Davis’ presents can’t be realized by watching footage alone.
“You have to get a dose of realism,” Kerr said. “Watching film, like, ‘OK Davis is going to be at the rim, we’ve got to be aware of his defensive presence.’ But then when you get out there, it’s real. You can see it on tape, but you gotta feel it in order to understand how to attack.”
Davis has recorded 26 blocks — two times more than any other player — in the playoffs. He averaged 20.8 points and 13.7 rebounds per game in the Lakers’ first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Draymond Green and Kevon Looney successfully limited Domantas Sabonis’ impact in the first round, but Davis presents a big problem for the Warriors.
With Davis as the Lakers’ defensive anchor, Los Angeles is a more sound interior threat than the Kings and tend to pack the paint.
A solution to that? Stretching the floor and shooting better than they did in the last series.
“We have to be smart offensively and not just go in and try to throw in a wild layup attempt over the top of them because that’s what fuels their fastbreaks half the time,” Kerr said.
Golden State didn’t shoot the 3-ball well against the Kings, converting on 32.8% of its shot attempts from beyond the arc, about a 6% difference from its regular-season 3-point shooting clip.
Kerr said that’s partly because of the pressure the Kings were putting on the Warriors.
“Playoffs are always harder, it’s tougher to knock down shots, the defense is more in tune, there’s more physicality,” Kerr said. “But it’s good to get used to that now we’ve got seven games under our belt, and I think we’ll shoot the ball better.”
Golden State has a little over 48 hours from the final buzzer of its first-round series to the start of its Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Lakers. On the evening before Game 1, though, Kerr said he liked where his team was heading into the second-round series.
Andrew Wiggins might not yet be fully in rhythm after missing the last seven weeks of the regular season for a family matter, but Kerr believes he’s “finding his way” back to his elite two-way form. Gary Payton II, who had four blocks in Game 7, also is back in the fold after sitting out for several weeks with a core injury.
“I feel like we’re on a good path now because we have our health and we’ve had a whole series with our full roster pretty much,” Kerr said. “We’ll shoot the ball better this series.”
There wasn’t much time to dwell on the record-setting 50-point showing by Curry in a series-clinching Game 7 over the weekend.
Almost immediately after the game ended, the sixth-seeded Warriors’ attention had to shift to the next task at hand: The seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers handled the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in six games in a first-round series punctuated by a demoralizing 40-point win in favor of Los Angeles. The three days off between that series-ending victory and Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals series will mean they’ll be better-rested than the Warriors, who needed seven games to put the Sacramento Kings’ season to bed.
Golden State, the No. 6 seed, will benefit from the home-court advantage for the first two games, but the schedule isn’t favorable from here on out for this round. The Warriors and Lakers will play every other day, starting with Game 1 at Chase Center.
Kerr said the short travel between venues — Los Angeles is only an hour flight from the Bay Area — is helpful in this scenario.
“To me, one of the most difficult parts of going every other day is when you’re got a long day of travel in between, those are the tough ones,” Kerr said. “So just going back-and-forth to LA for both teams will be helpful. I think you saw what our older guys are capable of [Sunday] coming off of 36 hours rest… It’s a matter of taking care of their bodies and staying on top of everything and bringing the necessary focus to each game and all you can do is the best you can.”
Here’s a look at the upcoming Warriors-Lakers schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, May 2 in San Francisco — 7 p.m. on TNT
Game 2: Thursday, May 4 in San Francisco — 6 p.m. on ESPN
Game 3: Saturday, May 6 in Los Angeles — 5:30 p.m. on ABC
Game 4: Monday, May 8 in Los Angeles — 7 p.m. on TNT
Game 5*: Wednesday, May 10 in San Francisco — Time TBD on TNT
Game 6*: Friday, May 12 in Los Angeles — Time TBD on ESPN
Game 7*: Sunday, May 14 in San Francisco — Time and Channel TBD
(Games marked * are if necessary)