The most anticipated showdown of the 2021 NBA play-in games goes down on Wednesday night when the Golden State Warriors travel to take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the No. 7 vs No. 8 matchup.
The winner of this game will face the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the postseason, while the loser will face the winner of the game between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs for a chance to lock up the No. 8 seed.
Who has the edge in the battle between Steph Curry’s Warriors and LeBron James’ Lakers?
Curry is firing on all cylinders. The league’s scoring champ -- 32.0 points per game -- has made the Warriors a dangerous proposition for a Lakers team that doesn’t look like it is at full capacity just yet.
After spraining his ankle on March 21, LeBron James has played in only four games, including the final two of the regular season. James looked fine for the most part over the weekend, but it’s a tough ask to expect his typical dominant self as he still shakes off the rust and gets back into game shape. However, LA should have some crucial advantages that could propel the team to the No. 7 seed.
For starters, the Lakers have a massive size advantage on the Warriors, with Anthony Davis rounding into form and Andre Drummond on hand. Curry’s range will pull the Lakers’ bigs away from the rim, but LA has the second-best defense in the league on a points per 100 possession basis, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Curry is going to get his, but the Lakers’ size is going to be overwhelming for a Warriors team that is thin up front. It’s pretty much Draymond Green and Kevon Looney at this point to fight on the glass.
The Lakers are fifth in the NBA in limiting opponent’s offensive rebounds, while the Warriors are 22nd in the same metric.
The gameplan for the Warriors is going to center around Curry, but if he is going to shoot 22 three-pointers like he did on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, that could play into the Lakers' hands.
Yes, it would be costly if he hits nine of them, but with LA’s ability to rebound and attack the undersized Warriors’ front court, they should be able to generate enough offense to offset Curry’s firepower.
For the Warriors to pull the upset, they will need a follow-up performance from Andrew Wiggins, who hit on nine of his 16 field goal attempts and scored 21 points while pulling down 10 rebounds on Sunday. Again, with the Lakers’ stout defense, who else is going to make them pay besides Curry?
There is a ton of intrigue around this game because of the incredible play of Curry and the unknown around James’ ankle. That uncertainty is keeping me off the spread. I can see several different outcomes in terms of a result, but I do have a lean on a team total.
I’m playing the Lakers’ team total over 112.5, which is available at FanDuel Sportsbook.
While I do think this game can become more half-court oriented, the Lakers' ability to attack the offensive glass and use their size to get to the free-throw line is driving me toward this bet. The Warriors have the second-highest opponent free throw rate in the league, so expect LeBron and Co. to live at the line on Wednesday night.
LA was able to get over this total in all three matchups with Golden State this season, and despite the stakes being higher, I expect them to go over it again.
Pick: Lakers Team Total Over 112.5