The matchup that few were anticipating but many were hoping for has come through. Steph and the Warriors will square off with LeBron and the Lakers. While it’ll be the first time in 32 years that the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs, LeBron is no stranger to the matchup – having faced the Warriors four times in the finals over the last eight years. This rare 6-seed vs. 7-seed matchup will tip off on Tuesday night for game one and will play every other day until we have a winner.
The Lakers took the season series this year, winning three of four. The Warriors only managed to snap the season opener from Los Angeles and went on to lose every other meeting. However, the look might be a little different here in the playoffs. Two of those previous meetings were while Steph Curry was out with an injury. He averaged 30.0 points per game in the two games he played.
The major thread of the regular season meetings was the poor shooting of the Warriors. Golden State shot just under 41.2% from the field in the meetings, which is well below their average of 47.7%. However, with Curry back and hotter than ever, that’ll likely be a different story here.
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Lakers Warriors Preview: Betting Trends, Predictions, and Bets
Why The Los Angeles Lakers Will Win
The Lakers made it through the first round in a way that is not exactly typical for them. The production was spread out more than usual, particularly in the scoring. In the six-game series with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers had five different lead scorers. During the regular season, more than 75% of their games had either Anthony Davis or LeBron James as the lead scorer – with another 5% belonging to Russell Westbrook, who is no longer with the squad.
The Lakers have essentially been the BEST team in the West since the All-Star break. 💯 pic.twitter.com/4F2CCPR2Lm
— Lakers All Day Everyday (@LADEig) April 29, 2023
While not slow in pace during the series, the Lakers’ games were all lower-scoring. Although the Lakers only dropped two games during the series, they scored less than nearly every team moving on (and less than some of the eliminated ones as well). That 112.2 points per game might be a cause for concern from some, but that means it came with plenty of defense.
During the series, they held Memphis to a paltry 40.2% shooting – by far the worst in the first round. They also stayed in the face of three-pointers, with Memphis only shooting 31.2% from deep. They also managed to keep the Grizzlies off the foul line by staying disciplined. Staying in the face of the shooters without hacking will be vital to the series for them.
The biggest change they’ll need to make to advance is to work on the boards. Although they led all teams in the first round in defensive rebounds, they still gave up a lot of offensive boards. This is partially due to the number of missed shots the Grizzlies had, but 13.2 offensive boards a game will be too many extra chances for a better shooting team like the Warriors.
Why The Golden State Warriors Will Win
The Warriors, in a lot of ways, were an antithesis of the Lakers in the first round. They went for 120 points in four of the seven games in their series and were just fine turning games into a shootout. In addition, their games were played with the fastest pace out of any series at 103.93 team possessions per.
Although they wound up with a lot of possessions, they also limited the shooting of the Kings in the first rounds. But, again, they did it in a much different way than the Lakers. While the Lakers stayed disciplined in the face of Memphis, the Warriors were less afraid to be physical. They held Sacramento to 42.9% and 30.6% from the field and three-point, respectively. Some of that can be attributed to the 22.7 fouls a game they committed – good for second in the playoffs so far—no easy buckets.
Finally, while the Lakers were giving a lot of second chances, the Warriors were the ones grabbing those. They nabbed 30% of the offensive rebounds – or right around 12.0 a game – giving their shooters another go at it, which is something they rarely need. So the ability to grab or limit second chances may wind up being one of the major deciders in this Lakers-Warriors series.
Los Angeles Lakers X-Factor: Rui Hachimura
Sure, Anthony Davis is the Lakers’ force down low, but Hachimura is a bit of a wild card here. At times in the last series, he looked brilliant, and at other times was a guy who ate minutes with almost no production. If you go by PER, Hachimura was the second most valuable player on the Lakers during that series. Some of that was due to his game-leading 29 points in game one. However, it might have been even higher without game five – a 9-point, 2-board effort over 21 minutes.
Will Hachimura be the guy who can grab half a dozen boards and create offense? His ability to do that could change the complexion of the series – especially as the Warriors draw a lot of fouls and the Lakers could need more minutes from the bench.
Golden State Warriors X-Factor: Kevon Looney
This Lakers-Warriors preview wouldn’t be complete without discussing Kevon Looney. After the first two games of the series, Looney was utterly unstoppable. Three times in the final five games, Looney went for 20+ rebounds, and he averaged 18.0 over that span.
More important to what the Warriors are doing is the fact that he was cleaning the glass on the offensive side more than anything. He topped 7+ boards in four of the last five games, including 10 in the clinching Game 7. With the Lakers giving up plenty of offensive boards, Looney’s ability to snag them may be a major difference-maker.
Kevon Looney rebounding this series:
Game 1 – 9 rebounds
Game 2 – 7 rebounds
Game 3 – 20 rebounds
Game 4 – 14 rebounds
Game 5 – 22 rebounds
Game 6 – 13 rebounds
Game 7 – 21 rebounds
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) April 30, 2023
In addition to getting his team second chances, perhaps the most valuable part of Looney’s game is the work he does on defense. Domantas Sabonis had 65 double-doubles throughout this regular season in 79 games. However, Sabonis had just three double-doubles in the seven games with Looney on him. I assume he’ll draw Anthony Davis duties, and being able to keep him from scoring and off the glass could be what makes or breaks this series.
Series Prediction And Best Bets
On the betting side of things, I favor the Warriors here. It doesn’t feel like the Lakers’ defense will be able to limit the shooting of the Warriors to anywhere near the levels of Memphis. There are too many shooters on Golden State and too many places for the Lakers to get burnt. Limiting the shooting of Ja Morant and Desmond Bane is not the same as limiting the shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Also, as we’ve covered, I think the offensive glass could spell trouble for the Lakers. However, if Looney stays up there and grabs extra chances for the hot hands, I think they will run away from the Lakers and finish this series early.
Warriors -1.5 Games: +155
Kevon Looney – Most Rebounds in Series: +250