The Pick: Warriors 106-95
At the very worst the Warriors are simply a better version of the Lakers. Instead of Steve Blake and Jordie Meeks (the duo has combined to make 1,284 three pointers in their 978 professional games at a 38.5 percent clip) serving as the perimeter bombers, the Warriors have Steph Curry (expected to return from a mild concussion) and Klay Thompson who not only have a much better nickname (“Super Splash Bros.”) but have made 1,038 triples in 428 games at a 43.4 percent rate. Considering that both of these teams shoot three pointers more than 28 percent of the time the Warriors’ edge in this category puts the Lakers at a huge disadvantage, and it is far from the only area in which Golden State holds a significant edge.
The Warriors play exceptional defense given their offensive pace thanks in large part to having the perfect complements to their high scoring backcourt. The addition of Andre Iguodala this offseason has given the offense a versatile play-maker but also an elite defender who is capable of shutting down the opponent’s best perimeter player (sorry Xavier Henry, this is not your night). The offseason acquisition is a big reason why Golden State ranks second in three-point percentage against (31.4 percent) and fourth in opponent points per shot (1.14). In addition to Iggy on the perimeter, the Warriors have four players averaging at least 12 rebounds per 48 minutes, allowing them to limit opponents to one shot with regularity.
Jordan Hill has been phenomenal of late (averaging 19 and 12 on 62 percent shooting from the field over the last ten days), but a healthy Andrew Bogut figures to stifle him to some degree. Even if Hill can continue his string of nice games, the Lakers are only 2-4 when he plays at least 19 minutes (3-3 otherwise) as their style of play minimizes the impact that a productive big can possibly have. Pau Gasol is shooting under 40 percent on two point field goals this season, a rate that simply isn’t going to cut it against a starting GSW unit that is shooting over 53 percent from inside the arc. The Warriors blew the Lakers out of the gym three weeks ago (125-94) on a night where LAL shot 44.4 percent from distance, 76.2 percent from the free throw line, had four bench players score in double figures, and held Curry/Iguodala/Bogut to eight made baskets (19 points) on 19 shots.
Fun Fact: The Lakers have been less efficient on the offensive side than the stagnant three win New York Knicks. On the flip side, the Warriors have been more efficient than the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team scoring 107 points per night.