The Golden State Warriors are preparing to take on the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA’s inaugural State Farm Play-In Tournament on Wednesday in what is being billed as the most highly-anticipated of the four pre-playoff games. While the LeBron vs. Steph matchup is the highlight of a head-to-head battle filled with them in the rivalry renewed, some NBA experts think there is a clear choice when it comes to picking a winner.
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ESPN asked 16 of their experts to make predictions on the outcome of each of the four Play-In Tournament games and each of the four first round matchups that have been set. In the showdown between the Dubs and Lakers, the analysts are going with L.A., and the pick are nearly unanimous.
All but one of the experts are going with LeBron and company, with only Nick DePaula predicting that the Warriors will be victorious. Of the eight matchups to predict, the only other one with a 15-1 margin was the Western Conference First Round battle between the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers and fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.
In that one, everybody except Royce Young picked the Clippers to move on.
What Happens if the Warriors Win vs. The Lakers? What if They Lose?
The good news for head coach Steve Kerr’s bunch is that, because of Sunday’s crucial victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the regular season finale, the team has two chances to grab one win and advance into the official first round of the playoffs. If they can get there, it will be a traditional best-of-seven series for the right to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
If the ESPN experts are right, and LeBron and Anthony Davis defend their homecourt on Wednesday night, Golden State would then host the winner of the matchup between the Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, who play right before the Lakers and Warriors on Wednesday. That game at the Chase Center would take place on Friday at a time that is to be determined.
If the Warriors were to lose that game against Memphis/San Antonio, their season would be over, but if they were to win, they would get into the first round of the Western Conference playoffs as the eighth seed and play the top-seeded Utah Jazz beginning next week. If the group can continue their season-ending six-game winning streak through the contest at the Staples Center, they don’t have to play again on Friday, and will automatically become the seven seed in the Western Conference and face the second-seeded Phoenix Suns.
It’s Been 3 Years Since Last Steph vs. LeBron Playoff Showdown
James has now played three regular seasons with the Lakers – totaling only 167 games though – so if there were any fans who just started following the NBA in the past few years, they may have forgotten just how special a Steph vs. LeBron playoff matchup was. True, the pair of future Hall-of-Famers squared off in four straight NBA Finals matchups between 2015 and 2018, but since then both superstars have only been active for four of the nine Warriors/Lakers games in the last three seasons.
Whether it was Curry’s injuries in the 2019-2020 season, the pandemic-altered last two seasons, or LeBron’s injuries in the 2018-2019 campaign and this year, the duo only played each other once over two seasons, before seeing each other three times this season. The last time they squared off with significantly more on the line than a game in the regular season standings, Curry was coming out on top.
After beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the 2015 NBA Finals, but then infamously blowing a 3-1 series lead and losing in seven games the next year, the already-loaded Warriors brought over Kevin Durant to help take down LeBron and the Cavs again in 2017. In 2018, with Kyrie Irving now playing with the Boston Celtics, LeBron and Kevin Love were no match for Steph, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as the Dubs won their third championship in four years.
The Play-In Tournament game between the Lakers and Warriors is scheduled to tip-off Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.