Lakers-Warriors would be an exciting Play-In matchup… before reality sets in for both franchises

By | March 17, 2024

The NBA would like seven games of this, but will have to settle for one… and change, if there is a repeat of whatever clock crime occurred Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Another footnote was added to the LeBron James-Stephen Curry book, with the Warriors coming away with a 128-121 victory, and it’s likely those two will do this dance again in just over a month in the Play-In Tournament – ​​Although it’s not entirely out of the question that Golden State or the Lakers overtake whoever is floundering in eighth place, and it’s also not crazy to imagine the Houston Rockets making life miserable for both veteran teams in the meantime .

On the one hand, there is no trip to the Western Conference finals on the line like there was last May. But if this turns out to be just one game, if it turns out that way, the NBA world will be left wanting more because so much has been invested in these two – perhaps at the expense of other compelling stories that will soon take center stage.

The nature of the game and the tension of previous matchups give the feeling that both would be dangerous in a seven-game series against some of the upstarts at the top, and then you remember they’re playing against each other and not the powers that be have done that. actually proven to be worthy throughout the season so far.

Being compelling can be confusing, but neither of these teams are truly championship worthy; they happen to be led by the most prominent winners since Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan left.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, 30, and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, 23, react after play was stopped due to a shot clock malfunction during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Los Angeles, Saturday , March 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Lakers-Warriors would be a compelling Play-In matchup, but neither team appears to be a serious title contender. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

April Madness will have to do, because it seems destined that one team will move on to another win-or-go-home game and the other will move on to an offseason of what-ifs, regrets and finger-pointing. This night was not without controversy, even before the shot clock malfunctioned in the final two minutes. James’ crooked triple into Curry’s grill was too good to be true, as replays showed James’ shoe was on the out-of-bounds line and the three-pointer made some 20 seconds after the matter appeared to be settled , was ripped away from the scoreboard.

James has seen it all, and he can’t remember such an instance. It’s a new rule aimed at getting things right in a reasonable way in a reasonable aftermath of a critical piece. Keywords: reasonable.

The 11-minute delay during which multiple plays were reviewed was followed by another unfathomable delay, this time by the computers operating the shot clock, killing all momentum for what should have been a tortuous conclusion to a really good and well-played game .

LeBron said he’s too old for this, without a hint of irony, as sitting just feet away from him was the man who should be too old and seasoned to be blaring shot-clock numbers: Lawrence Tanter, a veteran Lakers PA guy.

Blame the league for the former, not the latter – even though we have all begged the league to use the tools at its disposal to make things right.

And maybe the league has this Play-In thing figured out, too. While it would be wild to see the Warriors and Lakers chase the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks for the final spot in the traditional lineup, the added intrigue at the ninth and 10th spots has erased some of the March slump.

Without the Play-In, there would be crowing and whining about the conference imbalance, and whining that Adam Silver should ditch the conferences and go to a 1-16 playoff model – and, believe the best, close the complaints doesn’t matter if we don’t. I won’t get a full helping of spring Steph and spring Bronn when the weather arrives.

As an aside, it’s a bit funny to watch us trip over ourselves and say that Kevin Durant tipped the scales on this great individual rivalry (he did) while not crediting the Lakers with making him an all-time great player was employed in the rear of these battles in Anthony. Davis (he is).

Suffice to say, if Davis was undervalued, he should no longer be. It’s hard for a Defensive Player of the Year candidate to be overlooked, especially when he’s dropping 25 points on 12 boards every night, but such is life when it comes to these two supernovas.

Once Davis took a hit in the eye that made Clubber Lang growl and head to the locker room never to return, the Warriors had all the vertical space they could ask for, through Draymond Green’s lobs to Jonathan Kuminga.

The Lakers aren’t a great defensive unit, especially with James picking and choosing his spots, making great defensive plays at times when he doesn’t have nearly the power he had in his younger form, but they’re really out of trouble once Davis gets out is.

It’s a highway to the edge and, most importantly, Davis can’t punish the Warriors for being the smallest team in the league. Veteran Kevon Looney is looking for the youth and rebounding of Trayce Jackson-Davis, but he’s no physical match for Davis — and there are only so many minutes Green can handle defending the Lakers big man before you find yourself wondering how this will affect the other person. important parts of his game.

But therein lies the delicate line that both teams walk, due to both circumstances and self-inflicted mistakes. Of course, things develop over an 82-match marathon, but Kuminga should have been unlocked much sooner. It seemed like Green’s suspension was necessary to get Steve Kerr to play him more, and it took the pressure off an overloaded Curry.

Green’s suspension for giving Rudy Gobert the Million-Dollar Dream and subsequent flail to Jusuf Nurkić is a big reason he’s played just 41 games so far — and the Warriors are 24-17, at a pace of 48 victories under normal circumstances.

But things are never normal, never linear in the Bay, and it’s too easy to extrapolate where the Warriors would be without two notable absences from their emotional leader. They would certainly be better than a tie for ninth place and the possibility of having to stare James down in a one-game playoff.

Then there are the Lakers. James and Davis were healthy and damn good this year, and Laker optimists expected them to carry the momentum from last year’s playoffs into this year.

But something hasn’t quite worked out, and while D’Angelo Russell has been at an All-Star level since the calendar turned to 2024 (21.1 points, 6.3 assists, 45 percent 3-point shooting), he revealed that there was a rift between himself and coach Darvin Ham, who always seems to be a three-game losing streak away from the hot seat.

So now both franchises are staring at each other – they probably had plenty of time to do that during those awkward delays, wondering how they got here, thinking the other side is too good to barely be on the back end of the playoffs linger. And knowing that they will have to endure the other in some emotional struggle just for the right to have another, and maybe another, before they can breathe again.

Yeah, and maybe then they’ll face Denver, where reality will really hit them.

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