Golden State at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM (CT), NBA TV
Spread: GSW -11
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Golden State Warriors sit No. 2 in the Western Conference, trailing the Houston Rockets by 1.5 games as we near the season’s quarter-mark. How many expect it to stay that way? Golden State has been the league’s best team in point differential (+10.5) and despite having lost three of its past 10, it enters tonight’s NBA TV affair against the Los Angeles Lakers as 11-point favorites. The Warriors may just be getting going, and no one is decrying the league’s best quartet in Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant.
Of that aforementioned quad, perhaps the most pleasant surprise has been the re-emergence of Thompson. After suffering something of a down season a year ago, he has found his role and niche alongside Durant on the other wing. Thompson is No. 3 on the team in scoring at 20.2 points per game, but not to be ignored is his efficiency: draining 48.8 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three-point range, he is one of the league’s most deadly marksman, on perhaps the best team for that talent.
Durant, too, is shooting 52.9 percent and 43.2 percent, as the Dubs connect on 12.7 threes a night at a shocking 39.8 percent team clip. With Stephen Curry turning in another MVP-caliber season, the only question mark for Golden State is how it can get a little more from fourth-option Draymond Green.
Green has shot just 44.7 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three, and at just 7.6 field goal attempts per game, one might as what that matters. But the Warriors are a better team when Green is most involved. He averages 6.8 assists per game, which leads the team, as a high post passer who is second to none at such play. 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists might seem like a humble line, and certainly, with a PER of 15.8 his efficiency is just at league average, but Green is an All-Star, and he is perhaps the key to unleashing the Warriors’ best ball of the season.
As the Defensive Player of the Year, Green can cover all five positions and his versatility in covering guards on switches is a coveted aspect of his talents. He is the absolute key on both ends for Golden State, even if he averages less than 10 percent of the team’s offensive output.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 8-12, and a lot of fingers have perhaps unfairly been pointed at rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. The numbers do not support it. Despite shooting the league’s worst percentage from the floor, Ball brings so many intangibles that the Lakers are, indeed, a better team with the UCLA product manning the 1-spot. Even as a rookie, Ball is still tallying 7.1 assists per game with scarcely a shot to make defenses respect it. Ball is hoisting his jumper up at a 30.9 percent clip, and he is just 24.5 percent from three. But he hits the boards on both ends, and his transition passes are jazzy and eye-opening. Anyone that fails to see what Ball really could be, simply does not know what it takes to be a true point guard in a league somewhat devoid of such.
The most pleasant surprise for L.A. has been the play of No 27 overall pick Kyle Kuzma. He has made Julius Randle expendable. Kuzma leads the Lake Show in scoring at 16.7 points per game, and he is doing just about everything very well: 50.4 percent shooting, 6.1 rebounds per game.
The Lakers also rely on an assemblage of semi-stars who are all doing their part. Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and newly-acquired former Brooklyn Net Brook Lopez round out a starting lineup that has fared pretty well—at least on offense. The real culprit for L.A.’s struggles is its still struggling defense that allows 107.8 points per game. The Lakers are 6-5 at home this season but do not expect them to better that mark against a Warriors team that can half-speed cook this Lakers’ club. The defense is just too poor to slow a team with weapons like the Dubs possess.