If NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to quit his job and move to Hollywood to become a television producer, he’s got a knack for show business. Silver’s creation of the 2021 NBA Play-in Tournament features LeBron James and Steph Curry throwing down in primetime on Wednesday evening. The NBA heavyweights will slug it out for the #7 seed in the Western Conference, which makes the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors must-see TV in the West Seven-Eight Game.
The winner of Lakers/Warriors locks up the #7 seed and a date against #2 Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference playoffs. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game still has a chance to earn the #8 seed if they defeat the winner of the Nine-Ten Game between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
|NBA Play-in Tournament: West Seven-Eight Game|
|Golden State Warriors (39-33) at LA Lakers (42-30)|
- Tip-off: 7:00pm PT
- Location: Staples Center, LA
- Point Spread: LA -4.5
- Total: 219.5 o/u
- Moneyline: WAS +175 / LA -195
The defending champion Lakers struggled when they lost Anthony Davis and LeBron James to injuries. The Lakers slipped to the #7 spot in the West and must participate in the play-in tournament, much to the chagrin of LeBron, who loathes Silver’s concept. If the Lakers lose the Seven-Eight Game and lose the Nine-Ten game, they’ll miss the postseason completely.
From a fan perspective, there’s no better way to pimp out the play-in tournament than by featuring two of the league’s most popular stars in a high-stakes battle for a postseason berth.
Betting the Lakers and Warriors
The Lakers edged out the Warriors 2-1 in three regular-season games. The Warriors were thumped in both losses by an average of 23.5 ppg against a Lakers’ team without Anthony Davis.
The Warriors were 37-35 ATS this season, but the Lakers weren’t very good against the spread with a 32-39-1 ATS record. If you have a hankering to bet NBA totals, then look at the under. This Seven-Eight Game features the NBA’s best under betting teams. The Lakers led the NBA with a 43-28-1 under record, while the Warriors were second-best at 42-30.
The Warriors averaged 113.7 ppg (ranked #12), but allowed 113 ppg (ranked #21). Their offense runs through Curry. If he’s not swishing, then he’s dishing the ball to open teammates on the perimeter. The Warriors led the NBA with 27.7 assists per game. The Lakers boasted the second-best scoring defense in the league, allowing only 106.7 ppg. Thanks to their stifling defense, the Lakers didn’t have to rely on a lackluster offense that averages only 109.5 ppg and which is ranked #22 overall.
Despite sliding to the #7 spot in the West, the Lakers were the second-highest team on the NBA futures board and the consensus second-best favorite behind the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers are +400 odds to win the 2021 NBA championship, according to DraftKings.
LA Lakers: Title defense begins
If the Lakers are healthy (see Anthony Davis and LeBron), then they’ll have a shot at another title. Davis and LeBron returned from injuries, but can they remain healthy during the postseason grind? That’s the big question.
For now, Curry and the Warriors stand in the Lakers’ way. Frank Vogel will send out his trio of guards – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Dennis Schroder – in an attempt to slow down and knock Curry around.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, but one our guys are up to,” added Vogel.
“If we can limit Steph and his three-point attempts, his free-throw attempts, then we have a high chance of winning,” said Davis.
The Lakers signed Montrezl Harrell to bolster their bench. They also added Andre Drummond for the postseason run. Along with Davis, the Lakers have a trio of big men on their frontline who will pose matchup problems for the small-ball Warriors.
Kyle Kuzma (12.9 ppg, 6.1 rebounds) is also vital for their title defense. The streaky Kuzma sometimes disappears or fades away in games. Other times, he’s an unstoppable force of boundless energy. Kuzma is an important part of the Lakers’ transition game where he’s difficult to defend on the fast break.
Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry or bust
The Warriors shouldn’t be a playoff team, but Curry had a sensational season and put them in a position to qualify for the postseason. Curry scored a career-high 32.0 points per game this season and locked up a second NBA scoring title. He also jacked up 337 3-pointers, which set a new career-high.
It’s been a Splash Brother solo show because Curry had to score more without Klay Thompson in the lineup. The Warriors are also missing Kelly Oubre (wrist) and rookie James Wiseman (knee). Now, it’s up to Curry to take on LeBron once again.
“It’ll be a different scenario, but another chapter in it,” said Curry. “At the end of the day, you expect greatness. That’s the part I’ve enjoyed so much about playing in the Finals against LeBron. Those games that matter, it just brings out another level of intensity and excitement, and a sense of urgency about it.”
With Curry on the floor, the Warriors will always have a shot to win a game. When Curry erupts for 40-plus points a game, the Warriors are 9-2 this season. The Warriors are outmatched by the Lakers, but if Curry can work his long-range magic, the Warriors could pull off an upset.
If the Warriors want to steal a win, someone else must provide a massive scoring boost. Andrew Wiggins (18.6), Jordan Poole (12 ppg), Eric Paschall(9.5 ppg), and Kent Bazemore (7.2 ppg) have an opportunity to earn street cred with the Warriors if they can turn in a primetime performance against the Lakers.
Draymond Green is also an x-factor. The brutish veteran knows how to get under people’s skin and send opponents on tilt.
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.