GAME THREAD: Warriors in brace position ahead of impact against Lakers juggernaut
No changes to starting lineup, coach Steve Kerr says
Against the backdrop of Martin Luther King day, the Golden State Warriors are set to take on the Los Angeles Lakers.
[Skip down to the next section if you don’t want to read my thoughts on this MLK day]
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King junior is always worth remembering, but even more so these days. Angry right wingers foment a literal insurrection by forcibly attempting to stop vote counting (at Trump’s personal request no less), all in defense of a president that started off by promising to ban Muslims, and made it a priority to put immigrant children in cages - MLK’s message is as vital as ever.
MLK toed the line between peace and a need to upset the deeply entrenched white power structure of this country, with rhetoric full of messages of hope. We need that now. The fact that our country is still fighting the exact same battles - even with the Civil Rights Act ending formal segregation - shows there are still very different sets of rules in play here.
And still, our political machine is taking precisely that “tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” rather than the massive and wholesale changes required. In MLK’s own words:
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
It’s my hope that my generation will make some progress on issues that my parent’s generation weren’t interested in or able to change. I’m thankful we have an icon like MLK, but this day serves as an annual reminder of how much work there still is to be done.
Ok, back to basketball.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (6-6) at Los Angeles Lakers
WHEN: Monday, January 18, 2021 // 7:00 pm PST
Revenge of the King
As much as there’s a brotherhood amongst NBA players, you can see that certain matchups veer into the realm of becoming personal. So it goes with LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Outwardly complimentary, James clearly relished every block on Curry, or at least this one in particular:
That interaction came as LeBron was about to lose game 1 of the NBA finals, despite a robust 51-points. Remember, that was the JR Smith brainfart game? James has thrown a themed party around beating Curry and these Warriors - so expect him to be dunking extra hard on our team, now that the tables are turned.
And they are turned, those tables.
The Lakers are the superest of super teams. Led by two top-10 players, and supported by a well balanced roster packed with good players, the defending champs are legit. While the Warriors have lost their last two games to fall to 6-6, the Lakers have blown out their last four opponents by an average of 20 points per game on their way to a league best 11-3 on the season.
Barring a series of miracles, it’s going to be a bloodbath.
After cobbling together enough to win a weird title in the bubble last season, the Lakers fixed all their roster needs over the offseason. They brought in dynamic speedy point guard, Dennis Schroder, wily playmaking stretch center, Mark Gasol, and stole under-rated bench marvel, Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers.
Los Angeles currently ranks #1 in the league in overall net scoring, with the best defensive rating, and the fourth-best offense. That would be troubling enough on it’s own, but the Lakers are also the second-best rebounding team in the league.
The Warriors meanwhile, still look very much like a lower bracket team fighting for a playoff chance.
No changes to starting lineup, but two days of practice - will it matter?
Coach Steve Kerr isn’t blinking in front the increasingly bright light of inquisition into his intransigence and will reportedly stick with the same five that have been starting. Here’s Kerr, yesterday on why:
"I'm not making any changes to the starting lineup, there could be changes rotationally, pairings that sort of thing, we might try some different groups together during the game, but I think the biggest thing that we've been trying to do is build our defense from the beginning.”
With two consecutive days of practice under their belts (a mid-season rarity), the Warriors are about to be sorely tested against the fecundity of the Lakers offense, the 4th best in the NBA.
In signaling patience with Kelly Oubre, Kerr is hoping for a return to something closer to his career average on offense; but the defense is a work in progress as well. It looks like Kerr wants Oubre in with the opening unit as a preparation for an eventual playoff run, but more than that, I think he sees this team (rightly) with a higher defensive ceiling, so is investing more heavily in that.
I get it. But it’s an increasingly difficult argument to make. Damion Lee is the natural adjustment, and the evidence of him being under-utilized is beginning to pile up. Kerr and the rest of the staff aren’t blind, so Oubre continuing his upward trajectory is becoming increasingly important. Oubre has looked better, over the past three games, he’s hit 33% of his three point attempts (7 of 21), and has scored in double digits in each game, and seven of the last nine.
The Warriors are going to get absolutely smoked in Los Angeles tonight, so look for improvement around the edges of things. LeBron and Anthony Davis should be taking the entire fourth quarter off tonight, if they don’t get to do that, it counts as a moral victory for Golden State.