The Golden State Warriors will face a familiar foe in the first round of the NBA’s new play-in tournament.
The Los Angeles Lakers slipped all the way to the 7th seed in the Western Conference, setting up yet another postseason showdown between Warriors guard Steph Curry and Lakers forward LeBron James. The two met in the NBA Finals over four consecutive years from 2015-18, with Curry getting the best of James on three occasions.
James, who will be a member of the superior roster for arguably the first time in his postseason history with Curry, shared some strong words about his career-defining rival after the play-in tournament was officially set Sunday, May 16.
“We’re playing a (well-versed team) and, in my opinion, the MVP of our league this year in Steph (Curry),” James told reporters. “They’ve got championship DNA as well.”
Lakers LeBron Draws Parallels Between Himself and Warriors Curry
James went on to compare himself to Curry both on and off the court.
“For our paths to continue to cross in our careers, it’s pretty unique and pretty cool. Both of us born in … Akron, (Ohio). Our paths have been crossed again. (It’s) a level of respect beyond the game of basketball, the way I feel for Steph,” James said. “Just look what he’s done this year. Everybody counted them out this year.”
The Lakers star was almost indignant on behalf of Curry and the criticism he endured at different points throughout a strange, COVID-interrupted regular season that saw him lead the Warriors to an 8th seed in the loaded Western Conference. The team’s success is even more impressive considering the slew of injuries that robbed the Warriors of All-Star guard Klay Thompson before the first tipoff of the season.
“Can Steph carry a team on his own? Can he carry a team into the postseason? Keep a team afloat?” James said Sunday, repeating issues raised by Curry’s doubters across the year. “He’s done that and more.”
It was the Warriors point guard who had the best season overall, continued James, noting Curry’s historic scoring title this season at the age of 33 and his other milestones, including tallying more than 2,000 points and 337 made three-pointers in a virus-shortened season of only 72 games.
But just because Curry may deserve the MVP, or at least serious consideration, it doesn’t mean he will get it.
“We get caught up in record sometimes … instead of who had the best season that year. Steph has had the best season all year, in my opinion,” James said. “I don’t think Steph is going to get it, but that’s another conversation.”
Warriors Will Face Lakers Wednesday for Right to 7th Seed in West
James was giving Curry props Sunday with the conversation surrounding the league’s MVP Award, but the focus for both players will now shift to Wednesday’s play-in game.
Neither the Warriors nor the Lakers have their backs entirely against the wall. The winner will earn an automatic bid to the first round of the playoffs and a date with the second-seeded Phoenix Suns.
The loser will get a second chance to earn a playoff berth in a one-and-done game against the winner of the No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies versus No. 10 San Antonio Spurs play-in contest. Whichever team eventually claims the 8th position will square off against the top-seeded Utah Jazz.
James was confident in the Lakers prospects heading into the play-in tournament, talking about it as a stepping stone to the next level of postseason play.
“The play-in game will be something we can use to get ourselves going for what’s next,” James told reporters.
However, confidence doesn’t mean the Lakers star is taking a Wednesday victory over the Warriors for granted. Regardless of the play-in tournament moniker, James explained, the two teams are marching toward a playoff game.
“I’ll prep for it the same as I always prep for a playoff matchup,” James said. “It’s a playoff matchup between us and the Golden State Warriors.”
“I look forward to the challenge.”