2018-19 NBA Predictions: Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors
In Los Angeles on January 21st, 2019, The Los Angeles Lakers will face the Golden State Warriors. The last time these two teams met both were in the top 5 in the Western Conference standings.
Much has changed since that Christmas Day blowout win for the Lakers. Things have changed dramatically for the Lakers in fact. First, they lost mega superstar LeBron James to a groin pull for which he is still recovering.
He is most likely to miss this Monday night meeting with the Warriors. The Lakers who were 5th in the Western Conference when they beat the Warriors on Christmas Day have slipped in the standings to 9th overall in the West and out of a playoff picture.
In the same period, the Warriors have ascended to first overall in the West. After an uninspiring start to the season, the Warriors seem to be playing better as the season progresses. While teams like the Lakers are missing James, Rajon Rondo, and now Lonzo Ball to an ankle injury, the Warriors are healthy with DeMarcus Cousins back from a year-long rehab of a torn Achilles tendon.
Cousins scored 14 points in 15 minutes for the Warriors Friday night in a win over the Clippers. Cousins’ minutes will most likely be limited again against the Lakers. However, his return provides the Warriors with a dominant inside presence who can score and rebound. The Warriors come into this contest 9-1 in their last 10 games and have won 7 straight. The Lakers lost Saturday night to the Houston Rockets and are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers
This was already going to be a tough game for the Lakers without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo. However, Saturday night’s loss also cost them the services of point guard Lonzo Ball to an ankle injury and he is day to day. Expect the Lakers to most likely use Josh Hart as a point guard in this match. The only available point guard on their roster is rookie Isaac Bonga and he has played in just 6 games all season.
Expect the Lakers to struggle to create offense as the injuries to Rondo, Ball and James eliminate 19 plus assists per game from the Lakers offensive sets. They will need to move and share the ball making extra passes as a unit searching for open shots. These injuries also rob them of three players who create off of the dribble so expect both Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma to receive the defensive priority of the Warriors.
Expectations for the Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have DeMarcus Cousins available to play but expect them to limit his minutes to between 15 and 20 minutes. Considering he only played 15 minutes Friday night against the Clippers, Cousins 14 points were pretty good given he might not be in full game shape and is rusty. Considering the Lakers JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler combined average 14 points per game, on his own Cousins matches the production of the Lakers’ centers.
The Golden State Warriors are 1st in terms of Blocked shots and 9th overall in rebounding and now they have Cousins in the line-up. Expect the Warriors to dominate the glass and with interior defense. With Cousins, the Warriors are a complete offensive terror especially if their long-range game is on.
Cousins demands defensive attention from the Lakers and the deadly shooters on the Warriors like Durant, Curry, and Thompson will be freer to shoot from behind the arc. Expect the Warriors to get off a lot of three-point shots which they already shoot at a 38.9% rate for 2nd in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be relying heavily on Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram on Monday night as they literally have no choice. Kyle Kuzma in his sophomore season is averaging 19.3ppg and over 5rpg. He is shooting 47% from the field. He is an athletic wing player who can attack the rim and will need to be aggressive Monday night.
He does need to be careful because he will receive lots of defensive attention and he only shoots the three-pointer at 31%. The Warriors’ will want him to prove he can make the three before they play him tight. He may have a hard time attacking off of the dribble. Kuzma is also at 2:2 assist to turnover ratio so he must protect the ball.
Brandon Ingram in his third year is averaging 16 points per game but is also not a consistent 3-point shooter at 29.7%. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.9:2.6 which, like Kuzma is not great. Ingram will also face high defensive scrutiny from the Warriors defense. He to will need to be aggressive and decisive with his offensive moves but be careful with the ball.
Normally, for the Warriors, its easy to list Durant, Curry or Thompson as the key players. However, DeMarcus Cousins gets the nod here. Expect him to play between 14-20 minutes. As Cousins gets rid of more game rust and finds his game legs he will provide the Warriors with an inside threat that demands the focus of opposing defenses.
Ultimately, this will make the Warriors perimeter game easier and deadlier. Players like Curry, Durant, and Thompson are already elite scorers in the NBA and will get easier shots thanks to Cousins. He will also rebound the ball well for the Warriors
This game a month ago was a potential 1st round 2019 NBA playoff matchup that had the intrigue of LeBron James trying, on a different team, to knock off his nemesis of the past 4 NBA Finals. However, James will most likely not play. In addition, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo are hurting as well.
However, while the Lakers are injury plagued the Warriors are healthy and starting to dominate in the Western Conference. While the Lakers have been high scoring, in their last three contests, averaging 126ppg the Warriors have averaged around 134. Expect the score in this game to be 135-110 in favor of a healthy resurgent Golden State Warriors.