After sprinting through 62 games, including Tuesday's disappointing loss to San Antonio at Staples, in what feels like 32 days, the Lakers are in Oakland tonight for a date with a bad Golden State squad. It's the sort of game that, even in this crazy year, should be a cakewalk. Particularly given the question of whether Golden State, having traded or shut down almost all of its high-end talent, is doing whatever it can to lose down the stretch, preserving a first-round pick ticketed for Utah should it fall outside the top seven.
Still, the Lakers would be wise not to take any chances. With guys like Dorell Wright, Nate Robinson and Klay Thompson, at the very least the Warriors will want to get up and down, drawing the Lakers out of their Happy Tempo Zone into something a little too fast. Kobe Bryant will likely miss the game, the last trip to Oracle wasn't exactly satisfying and the Pacific Division is still up for grabs.
More than incentive to stay focused and bury the Dubs, which, given a season-long tendency to play down to the competition, would actually constitute a genuinely positive evening's work. To help gain a little more insight into the team upon which the Lakers should toss an abundance of dirt, we hit up J.M. Poulard of the always entertaining Warriorsworld.net.
1. So word is the Warriors are tanking. True? If so, how's it going?
The Golden State Warriors have lost 17 of their past 22 games, which coincides with the Monta Ellis trade to Milwaukee (for Andrew Bogut). Mind you, it’s one thing to tank and not give the fans anything to cheer about -- yes, Charlotte, I’m looking at you -- but it’s something completely different when the team is able to get the young guys a look, get them to play hard and remain competitive for most of the game and then finally fall to a more talented team late.
The Warriors have been tanking since early March but the fans have had the chance to cheer for their team given their effort. So in short, it’s been a resounding success!
2. Year 1 of head coach Mark Jackson is basically in the books. How has he done? Was he what you expected?
Jackson’s defense showed a lot of promise early in the season, but it had several holes. Consequently, Jackson liked to go to the zone -- he still does -- especially with his second unit to give opponents a different look, but can stay too long with it.
Mind you, the change in philosophy since the trade has meant that the Dubs have played younger players a little more, and there have been some serious issues with their defensive rotations and their pick-and-roll coverage, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of the head coach.
It is worth noting, though, that Action Jackson was able to get Monta Ellis to curtail his game for the benefit of the team and was never afraid of sitting him whenever he was hurting them. The end result was that Ellis involved his teammates, picked his spots when teammates had it going and willingly gave up the rock when faced with double coverage.
Jackson has instilled confidence in his players and has allowed them to figure things out on the court, but removing the proverbial green light from certain players next season will probably be one of his takeaways from this season.
[Editor's note: Expect Jackson to lean heavily on the zone defense Wednesday. It has been his plan against the Lakers thus far, with some success. It's certainly a wise choice given L.A.'s general struggles against zone D's, plus GSW's total lack of quality size up front.]
3. Monta is gone, Steph Curry is banged up, Bogut isn't available, David Lee is out. Who on the Warriors should Lakers fans be watching?
Klay Thompson. He’s Kyle Korver with Allen Iverson’s penchant for putting the ball up. When he gets going it’s a thing of beauty, given that he has a beautiful stroke and can shoot it with the best of them. But again, he loves to get his shots up.
Also, he's nowhere near Lamar Odom’s talent, but at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, Dominic McGuire is the Warriors' super sub. He defends every position, rebounds, handles the ball and scores at the rim. He’s worth keeping an eye on.
4. What three things must the Warriors do in order to win? Assuming, of course, that's the goal?
Assuming the Dubs are trying to win, they have to dominate the turnover battle, limit the damage on the boards and make it rain from 3-point range to counter the Lakers’ dominance on the interior.