In a battle for the ages, the LA Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors in the NBA play-in tournament on Wednesday night to see who seals the West's 7th seed. The game has drawn extensive attention due to the clash between two giants of the league - pitting the unstoppable shooting of Steph Curry against the leadership of LeBron James.
Lakers' leader continued his voice of admiration for Curry in the media this week, stating that he had the best campaign of any player over the 2020-21 season. He and Curry have become accustomed to clashing in the spring, though this time the stakes are very much different for their respective teams.
LeBron comes into this as favorite, though his task may not be as easy as one would have expected if the scenario had been given at the start of the season. Yes, the LA Lakers have size and depth, but the Warriors have unshakeable confidence and this is, in essence, a free-ticket for them to reach the playoffs, with another game on home court to fall back on.
What will happen to the LA Lakers if they fail to defeat the Golden State Warriors?
Should the Golden State Warriors prevail on Wednesday night, the LA Lakers will drop into the 8th vs 9th-seed winner-takes-all matchup on Friday. There, they will face either the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs at the Staples Center. The winner of that game will advance to play the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lakers will fancy their chances should that happen, against two sides who finished the season in the bottom half for offensive efficiency.
Frank Vogel's team were consistently restrictive on defense against opposition scorers this year, allowing the second-fewest points and third-fewest three-point efforts. Having played both teams three times during the campaign, the LA Lakers came away with five wins and just a solitary loss to the Spurs back in January.
LeBron James and co. will be doing everything they can to avoid that happening and face a one-off game to see if they can defend their title. After struggling with injuries throughout the campaign, the LA Lakers will be back to full-strength for the arrival of the Golden State Warriors. That means they will be able to throw all of their best defenders at Steph Curry, with Dennis Schröder leading from the front.
Curry will seek to find a way through the LA Lakers' overwhelming size in the frontcourt, but if there is anybody who can do it, it is him. Now all that remains is to wait and hope that the action lives up to its billing.