December 22, 2017, 6:57 pm
The Lakers (11-18) head to Golden State to take on the Warriors (25-6) on Friday night. Los Angeles is fresh off a tremendous upset over the league leading Houston Rockets on Wednesday, while Golden State is in the midst of a 10-game win streak.
Golden State is led by Kevin Durant who hit the game winner against Los Angeles to sour the Kobe jersey retirement evening. He is averaging 26.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.2 blocks and 0.7 steals while shooting an efficient 51.0 percent from the field and 87.9 percent from the free throw line. He has been even more impressive of late as the team has relied on him during the absence of key players such as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green — the latter is expected to return for the game Friday.
Los Angeles is led by their young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
Kuzma is coming off an explosive performance where he was perfect in the first half with 9-of-9 field goals, 6-of-6 from 3-point range and 24 first half points. He finished with 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one block and seven 3-pointers on 12-of-17 from the field. “Kuz” is the Lakers’ leading scorer on the year with 17.4 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting and has many people wondering who the best Laker rookie actually is.
The more heralded Laker rookie is No. 2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball, who has been playing pretty well of late. He was also instrumental in Wednesday’s win, scoring 16 points with nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks. However, he committed five turnovers in addition to shooting only 5-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from the free throw line. He has done a better job impacting the game lately, a trend that must continue if the Lakers are to pull off their second consecutive road upset over an elite team.
Ingram has seen his game grow by leaps and bounds in his second season in the NBA. He is averaging 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks per game on much improved 44.7 percent shooting from the field. In his two previous meetings against Durant he has amassed 25.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.0 blocks a game. He has also acquitted himself quite well on the defensive end against the almost unstoppable Durant, forcing him to shoot 10-of-29 from the floor in their last matchup.
Los Angeles will get back starting shooting guard Kentavious Cadlwell-Pope in this game as he continues to serve his 25-day jail sentence for violating parole related to a crime committed while he was still a member of the Pistons. He is unable to leave the state for road games so the Lakers can consider themselves fortunate that this road game is still within state lines.
His return does force coach Luke Walton to make some interesting decisions regarding his rotation. Josh Hart has been effective during the games Caldwell-Pope has missed and is expected to retain a prominent role off the bench.
A more difficult task will be finding time for Corey Brewer, who was a huge factor in the Lakers’ win over the Rockets pouring in 21 points, five rebounds, one assist and three steals on 7-of-9 shooting. He played spectacular defense on James Harden and helped provide a stabilizing influence as the Lakers impressively recovered from blowing an early 22-point lead.
One last item to keep an eye on will be Walton’s re-integration of Julius Randle to the team. Randle was relegated to only eight ineffective minutes against the Rockets and was visibly displeased with his lack of playing time. He was expected to play a large role in the absence of injured Brook Lopez but was simply squeezed out of the rotation by the stellar play of Larry Nance Jr., Kuzma, Andrew Bogut and Brewer.
- The Warriors lead the league in free throw shooting at 81.2 percent. The Lakers are at the opposite end of the spectrum shooting an abysmal 69.4 percent (30th). Los Angeles has lost multiple games due to their inability to convert at the line but were able to fend off the Rockets for an upset despite missing 16 free throws while hitting only 27-of-43 for 62.8 percent.
- Golden State is also first in the league at 3-point shooting at 39.8 percent vs. 32.8 percent (30th) for Los Angeles — though the Lakers have been improving in that statistic of late.
- These are two top-ten teams in assists as the Lakers average 23.3 (9th) compared to 30.5 (1st) for the Warriors.
- Golden State scores 116.2 (1st) points per game while the Lakers average a respectable 107.1 (10th).
- Los Angeles has been limiting their turnovers of late, decreasing their average to 16.7 (29th) per game compared to 16.2 (27th) for Golden State. The Warriors tend to make up for their errors with their league leading field goal shooting, free throw shooting and 3-point shooting whereas the Lakers cannot.
- Both teams excel in hustle stats. The Lakers average 46.6 rebounds (3rd), 8.2 steals (9th) and 5.7 blocks (3rd) vs 45.2 rebounds (5th), 8.4 steals (7th) and 8.5 blocks (1st) respectively. They’ll need to keep that up to have a chance.
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Kyle Kuzma (PF)
Andrew Bogut (C)
Patrick McCaw (PG)
Klay Thompson (SG)
Kevin Durant (SF)
Draymond Green (PF)
Jordan Bell (C)
Brook Lopez (ankle) – OUT
Steph Curry (ankle) – OUT
Draymond Green (shoulder) – STARTING
Zaza Pachulia (shoulder) – OUT
Shaun Livingston (knee) – OUT
Andre Iguodala (illness) – GAME-TIME CALL
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: ESPN, NBCSBA, TSN,
Radio: 95.7 THE GAME, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES