Friday, November 4, 2016

Lakers Host Warriors Friday Night at Staples Center

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) return home for their second home game of the season, and a national audience, along with the Golden State Warriors (4-1), help bring out the stars to kick off a three-game home stand.

The Warriors played on Thursday night in Oakland, as Kevin Durant caught fire and lit up Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant completed the conversion to villain as he visually talked trash to his former team, scored 39 points and led the Warriors to a 26-point victory.

As such, the Warriors enter Staples Center on the second night of a back-to-back, but the flight time from Oakland to Los Angeles is about as long as it takes to get through traffic from LAX to Staples Center on a typical Friday evening. Also, Durant and the other starters did not have to play heavy minutes due to lopsided score line.
The Lakers, meanwhile, earned their first road win of the season in their most recent game. LA outplayed Atlanta on Wednesday night and improved with every passing quarter in the game. Through five games, the Lakers' slow starts are beginning to add up.
Thus far, the Lakers have yet to lead after the first quarter and average giving up 32 points in the opening 12 minutes through the first five games of the season. Simply, LA's defense is not sharp enough at the start of games, and even when the team starts out by making shots, the lack of defense has dominated the story of LA's poor starts.
"I don't have an answer, but I think we're getting better at starting games," Lakers coach Luke Walton said at Friday morning's shootaround. "And I'd like to see that try and continue, because the first quarter against the Warriors both time we played them (in preseason), they jumped out to 12-0 type of leads, so we don't obviously want that to happen again tonight."

A closer look reveals that the halftime talk, smelling salts or video study that is going on in the locker room has a notable effect on the team.
In the Lakers' two victories, LA outplayed the competition handily in both second halves. Against Houston on night no. 1 of the season, the purple and gold outscored Mike D'Antoni's Rockets by 14 points over the final 24 minutes. Similarly, Walton inspired his team to outscore the Hawks by 16 points following the halftime team talk at Phillips Arena.

With the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back, LA's second half surge could trouble Golden State and hand the title favorite its second loss of the 2016-17 season. The key, of course, is for the Lakers to buck the trend and get off to a strong start. As a reminder, the Lakers have not led after the first quarter in any of their five games. And yet, the young Lakers have fought until the end in every game, and all the contests have been entertaining, dramatic and competitive, i.e. fun.
Win or lose, the Warriors are the biggest ticket in the NBA, and the Lakers can raise more than a couple eyebrows by pulling the upset on Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Notes: Walton served as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors for two seasons before taking the head post in LA. Lakers center Timofey Mozgov is considered doubtful due to a left-eye contusion suffered in Indiana. Nineteen-year-old Rookie Ivica Zubac expects to make his second career start if the Russian veteran is unavailable. Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram has been compared to Durant, and the rookie took on the challenge of guarding his basketball idol for stretches in both preseason encounters between the two teams. In the final meeting, the Lakers kept the game competitive against Golden State's regular season rotation, with the 19-year-old Ingram scoring 21 points, pulling down seven rebounds, swiping two steals and tabbing four assists in the exhibition game in San Diego.

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