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Lakers-Warriors matchup: Five things to watch

April 18, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • The Lakers have beaten the Golden State Warriors twice this season but never could establish a double-digit lead. Pictured here: The teams' Jan. 6 matchup.
The Lakers have beaten the Golden State Warriors twice this season but never… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Some things to watch when the Lakers (39-23) visit the Golden State Warriors (22-38) Wednesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland:

1. The Warriors will tank, but the Lakers have to be careful. With eyes on a possible high lottery pick, the Warriors have lost 17 of their last 22 games since trading away Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut. So no need to worry about the standings implications regarding this game. The Lakers will add some cushion to their half-game lead over the Clippers for third place in the Western Conference. With the sidelining of Warriors starters Stephen Curry (right ankle sprain), Bogut (fractured left ankle) and David Lee (strained groin), there's no conceivable way the Lakers can lose this game. Unless they go out of their way and try really really hard to do so just for kicks.

But the Lakers can't focus solely on the bottom-line result. Even though Golden State is tanking, it fields a young and talented roster eager to prove both its worth on the team and the open market. Klay Thompson, son of former Laker and radio analyst Mychal Thompson, has averaged 18.4 points since the trade. Dorrell Wright shoots 35.7% from three-point range. In addition to Thompson, three other starters, rookies Jeremy Tyler, Charles Jenkins and Mickell Gladness, will treat this game as an open audition.

This has all the ingredients of a trap game. It would come as no surprise, given the Lakers' penchant for playing down to its competition, if it made this game more difficult than necessary.

2. Use this opportunity to rest players. The Lakers can avoid such a scenario if they put away the game early and give Coach Mike Brown no excuse not to give his starters an early night off. Kobe Bryant may be missing his seventh consecutive game because of a sore left shin, but Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum sure could use the rest too after averaging 37.4 and 35.5 minutes, respectively. Although Brown has wanted to give Ramon Sessions more minutes because of his age (26) and continual adjustment since arriving here last month, he's still nursing a sprained left shoulder. Doing so would also give the Lakers' bench more of an opportunity to sharpen chemistry a little more than a week before the playoffs start.

3. The Lakers' frontline should have a field day. Minus Lee and Bogut, the Warriors have absolutely no one who can counter the Lakers' size. No need to reinvent the wheel. Simply pound the ball to Bynum and Gasol and just let them go to work. It might be a psychological pick-me-up considering the relentless double teams they've faced during Bryant's absence.

4. How will the Lakers control their tempo? Brown has provided mixed assessments about how well the Lakers have maintained a balance between playing at a fast pace while making sure they're not getting into track meets. Golden State's up-and-down style of play could propel the Lakers into bad habits, but there's an easy solution. The Lakers simply need to play methodically and slowly but surely wear out Golden State's defense.

5. The Warriors' zone defense might give the Lakers some trouble. Being a Syracuse grad, I'm always here to defend the 2-3 zone. It entices teammates into rushed outside shots and forced passes instead of relentlessly attacking the gaps inside. The Lakers usually don't see too many three-point shots they don't like. But the Lakers should only take these if they come off crisp ball movement and are in rhythm with the offense.

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