Actor Wesley Snipes has an iconic line in the 1992 action hit movie Passenger 57 when asked if he ever played roulette before. Smipes’ character John Cutter replied: “Always bet on black.”
Now if you’re the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors playing in a single play-in tournament elimination game, where would you roll the dice? LeBron James or Stephen Curry? Sounds simple but complicated. For the NBA, this matchup is a great buy-in for fans to tune into this year’s playoffs. For James and Curry, this could be more than just a professional basketball thing. This is personal.
Payback is a ….Curry is waiting to drop off the deposit. Nice to see you again, LeBron. This should be interesting. A one-game elimination square off between Curry’s Warriors and the Lakers. Who would have thought? Who saw this coming? Probably no one, especially James and the Lakers.
A season ago, James and the Lakers pranced around the NBA’s Western Conference with the best record and ran through the postseason like water coming from a rainfall. The dominance of James and the Lakers as they compiled a 16-5 mark en route to the franchise’s 17th NBA title was a return to greatness for the Purple and Gold.
That greatness has evaporated into just a notch above mediocrity. The Lakers were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in 2020. This year they are positioned as the No.7 seed and have to prove they rightfully belong in the regular playoff party. Injuries and thirsty opponents looking to prove they have what it takes to knock off the Lakers have been the main problems for the team to contend with this season.
But that comes with the territory. The Warriors, who lost guard Klay Thompson for the season, are not feeling sorry for the Lakers. And now Curry, whose record-breaking Warriors were defeated by James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after being up 3-1 in the 2016 NBA Finals, could be the worst-case scenario to play out against the Lakers.
Why? Because he’s Stephen Curry. We can give you a couple more reasons. Let’s start with a motive. That 2016 NBA Finals series between Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers went to a Game 7. James helped clinch the Cavaliers win with The Block. Curry and the Warriors, emotionally, could not come back from that blocked shot by James of an attempted dunk/layup by Andre Iguodala. The Cavs came away with the title.
So now let’s conclude why playing the Warriors in the NBA’s play-in tournament is not in the Lakers’ favor: Stephen Curry. Curry, averaging 32.8 points a game, is the league’s scoring leader. Not only that, Curry has been basically a one-man show for the last two months, putting otherworldly numbers to propel the Warriors into the No. 8 playoff seed they are in today.
Without Curry, the Warriors are a sub .500 team at best. With Curry dropping 3-point bombs from close to midcourt just about any time he wants makes the Warriors a very dangerous team to contend with, even if you are the Lakers. Curry has stepped up his game so much over the last two months that he is now one of the frontrunners for MVP.
That’s not to mention that he dropped 46 points against the Memphis Grizzlies in a 113-101 win by Golden State to help his team clinch that No. 8 seed.
The Lakers are dealing now with a reality check. A season ago, a healthy James and Anthony Davis with title-starved veterans like Dwight Howard and Javale McGee as well championship winners in Rajon Rondo and Danny Green were a feared group. With injuries taking out James and Davis at various times and other players hampered by other medical issues, the Lakers have looked anything but feared.
The Lakers went 52-19 during the regular season a year ago. They won 36 of those games against conference opponents. This season, things have sort of raggedy as the Lakers compiled a 25-17 record at home and a 21-15 mark on the road. That’s not nearly as impressive as the body of work they sculpted last season.
As a result of their up and down season, the Lakers are staring at the cold reality of being booted from the postseason early from a one-man show. There is no backup plan if the Lakers lose against Curry and the Warriors. If they win, the Lakers simply move on to play a best-of-seven series against the Phoenix Suns. If they lose, they’ll be watching the rest of the playoffs at home like most other people.
No one really knows how these things actually shake out until it happens. The Lakers are attempting to repeat as champions, a feat they last achieved with Kobe Bryant following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Outside of 2020, the Warriors have represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, winning three titles.
In winning those three championships, Curry and the Warrior beat the Cavaliers and James. So now James and Curry will once again be center stage with one another. Who are you willing to bet on? The Lakeshow or the Dubs? Either way, it figures to be a show we won’t soon forget.