In a matchup as old as time (or it feels that way, at least) LeBron James will meet Stephen Curry in a postseason game with everything on the line. The winner will vault right into the seventh seed in the upcoming playoffs, while the loser will be forced to play a win-or-go-home game to round out the play-in tournament. Can Los Angeles build off the last couple games it played with Anthony Davis back healthy, or will it be the more consistent Warriors, in better form, to move into a first-round series aginst the Suns? We’ll tell you where to look at top sportsbooks.
Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Wednesday, May 19, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at STAPLES Center
Peaking at the Right Time
It’s hard to get hotter than the Warriors right now, who enter Tuesday night’s play-in game with eight wins in their last nine games, including triumphs over three playoff teams in the Jazz, Suns and Grizzlies. It’s no wonder they’ve been bet down to a five-point underdog after they opened getting six and a half points. Steph Curry has been on fire, and the depth pieces have come together to alleviate some of the burden on his shoulders in wake of so many injuries this year.
It’s worth explaining real quick how this play-in tournament will work. Think of it as a double-elimination tournament, with the Warriors and Lakers starting in the winner’s bracket. The winner of this game will grab the seventh seed, while the loser will battle the winner of the ninth and 10th place game between the Grizzlies and Spurs for the eighth seed. So, this isn’t a life or death game for either side, but it sure is important.
Over the past 10 games, Golden State has turned back the clock and played some lockdown defense. The Warriors were praised for their work on this end earlier in the season, but a large lapse led to some ugly results for the meat of the year. The Dubs are back to what’s working best, though, posting the second-best defensive rating over the past 10 games at just 105.8 points per 100 possessions. The team Golden State has to face on Tuesday may have a lot of weapons, but it has a big one of its own right now in its defense.
Does Momentum Matter?
It’s been a weird few weeks for the Lakers, who endured the loss of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and saw the latter return to actually make things worse, somehow, before James eventually came back in and helped return Los Angeles to its winning ways. On the surface, it seems easy to say this team is playing well coming in off five straight wins, but the Lakers have covered in just two of those games. This team has been discombobulated over the last 10 games, ranking just outside the bottom 10 in the league with 109.5 points per 100 possessions. Their top-flight defense has ranked seventh over that span as well, and as mentioned above it’s actually been much better with Davis off the floor.
The big question here is whether or not any of this matters. James and Davis just won the NBA Finals last season, after all, and there was a defensive culture built on this team all season long. Perhaps it was just fatigue that set in late in the year, and better days are on the horizon. It will be fascinating to see whether or not the Lakers can magically snap back to normal though, just with a few practices and days of rest. They certainly have the talent, and have played enough games together, but it could take this team a bit to get ramped up to full speed.
With that, it’s going to be dangerous backing Los Angeles in a win-and-in game, but those tend to be the games where James shines the brightest. In a game with two strong defenses, I’m going to take the considerably better offense. Another big factor here will be the battle down low; Golden State has been notoriously soft in the frontcourt with one of the worst rebounding rates in basketball. The mid-season acquisition of Andre Drummond should pay dividends here, and he and Davis should dominate the Warriors’ bigs. With that, I think the Lakers could win this one handily and cover the number posted by betting sites.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.