The Los Angeles Lakers are set to host the Golden State Warriors in the 7-8 Play-In Tournament game.
The winner of the one-off matchup will secure the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and move on to face the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. The loser will go on to face the winner of the 9-10 game between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
The defending champion Lakers find themselves in a unique situation, with their road back to the NBA Finals beginning with a one-off game, while the Warriors are looking to make it back to the postseason after missing out in 2019-20 after five-straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Where to Watch
Date: Thursday, May 20
Time: 7:30 a.m. IST
Location: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James ... get your popcorn ready!
After going toe-to-toe in four straight NBA Finals in recent years, Curry and James will be squaring off for their respective playoff lives in the Play-In Tournament.
"It'll be a different scenario, but another chapter in it," Curry said. "At the end of the day, you expect greatness. That's the part I've enjoyed so much about playing in the Finals against him ... those games that matter, it just brings out another level of intensity and excitement and a sense of urgency about it, because you know how good you have to play to win games like that."
Despite having won their final five games of the regular season, the Lakers fell into the Play-In scenario after finishing with the same record (42-30) as the Portland Trail Blazers, who own the tiebreaker, courtesy of winning the season series (2-1).
LEBRON: 'Curry is the 'MVP of our league this year'
Coming up against Curry in a one-off game is as daunting a task as it gets, especially considering the scorching form he's carried into the Play-In Tournament.
The 33-year-old closed out the season on a tear, picking up his second scoring title and capping off the regular season with a 46-point outburst against the Memphis Grizzlies.
🔥 46 PTS, 9 3PM 🔥@StephenCurry30 drops 33 in the 2nd half to fuel the @warriors! #DubNation- NBA (@NBA) May 16, 2021
GSW clinches #8 in the West and will take on #7 (LAL or POR) in the #StateFarmPlayIn Wednesday on ESPN! pic.twitter.com/xgw8bCVbEL
With Curry shooting the lights out and Draymond Green back to his best, the Warriors boast the league's best net rating and second-best net rating over their last 20 games, peaking at just the right time.
For the Lakers, their primary concern will be keeping Curry quiet, throwing the likes Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso in his direction and daring his teammates to beat them.
Can the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Kent Bazemore knock down enough open shots to make them pay?
Meanwhile, the Lakers, who have struggled with injuries and consistency leading into the postseason, got another scare with LeBron exiting their season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans after tweaking his ankle. James missed 22 of the Lakers' previous 26 games, but insists he'll be "fine" for the Play-In game.
With Anthony Davis back in the lineup alongside Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell, expect the Lakers to take the fight to the Warriors in the paint, taking advantage of their size advantage against Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell.
The Lakers won the season series 2-1 against the Warriors, winning the last two games by a combined margin of 57 points. Both victories came without star big man Anthony Davis.
The Dubs' lone win over the full-strength Lakers came in January, where they pulled off an inspiring comeback win, rallying from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to win, 115-113.
Not yet submitted by either team.
Spread: Lakers -6.5 (-110), Warriors +6.5 (-110)
Lakers money line: -270
Warriors money line: +230
Over/Under: 222.5 (-110)
Odds courtesy of William Hill Sports Book
Picks and Predictions
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Los Angeles Lakers
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Los Angeles Lakers
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Golden State Warriors
Kane Pitman (@KanePitman): Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Los Angeles Lakers
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