Facing the Golden State Warriors in a play-in game to reach the postseason, Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis has no illusions as to what his team’s No. 1 task is defensively.
Stop long-range shooter Stephen Curry.
“We know who the head of the snake is in Steph,” Davis said. “We’ve got to do our best to contain him. It’s going to be a team effort, not just all the pressure on the guards. But they’re playing extremely well. Every guy that they have is playing extremely well. So, it’s going to be challenge for us. But if we execute our defensive scheme, we should be able to get out of there with a ‘w’.”
Curry averaged a league-high 32 points per contest this season, winning the NBA scoring title. But he averaged just 23 points a contest in three games against the Lakers this season, losing two of those.
Lakers held Curry to 42.3 percent shooting from the field during the regular season.
Point guard Dennis Schröder will likely draw the first matchup defensively against Curry to start the game, harassing him full-court and making it hard for the 33-year-old All-Star to initiate the offense.
“He’s the best shooter to ever play this game, so any shot that comes from half-court on is a good shot for him,” Schröder said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to make it as hard as possible, be into him and limit his threes.”
The Lakers were one of the top teams in the league defensively this year. Los Angeles finished the regular season as the league leaders in defensive rating, allowing just 106.8 points per 100 opponent possessions. The Lakers also held opponents to 106.8 points per game, second in the NBA and the team’s lowest opponent scoring average since 2014-15 campaign.
The Lakers will use their ability to play good team defense to contain Curry.
“He’s most dangerous when he’s off the ball,” Davis said. “He’ll give the ball up to his big or a guard, and he’s flying around. Usually, when a guy gives the ball up, the defensive player tends to relax. And that’s when he’s most dangerous. So, we’ve got to make sure we keep an eye on him and stay locked in on him at all times.”
While slowing down Curry is the No. 1 priority for the Lakers defensively, on offense the Lakers need to play more consistent on each possession.
The Lakers averaged 109.5 points per game during the regular season, No. 22 in the league. They shot 35.4 percent from beyond the arc, No. 21 in the NBA. And Los Angeles had trouble taking care of the basketball, averaging 15.2 turnovers a game, No. 28 in the NBA.
But for the first time since the start of the regular season, the Lakers should be fully healthy. Head coach Frank Vogel said LeBron James had a little soreness in his right ankle but practiced on Tuesday and will be available on Wednesday, along with Davis, listed as questionable on the team’s injury report with a shoulder issue.
“We have a great deal of confidence in what we’re able to accomplish right now,” Vogel said. “Obviously, it was a little bit uneasy and unknown over the last, few weeks. Where is our health going to be? What are we going to look like when all the pieces come back together?
“I think this last weekend seeing all of the guys back out there together, while not perfect, was a good snapshot of what we can be. There were a lot of positives to take from those two games. And I like where we’re at from a health standpoint. So, I would say our guys are confident but have a great respect for our opponent.”