It is rare when an event as highly anticipated as the showdown between Steph Curry and LeBron James on Wednesday lives up to the expectations, but that game surely did. Steph Curry hung 37 points on a crisp 12-of-23 shooting night, and LeBron James posted a triple-double while hitting an amazing game-winner with 58.2 left on the clock. If you are a basketball fan, then you came away feeling satisfied after watching that one.
But, we are not about fun and frivolity here at VSiN! You are here because you want to know if there is anything of substance to take away from that game and apply to the future for Los Angeles, and I am here to tell you that there is!
At halftime, the Lakers looked destined for a meeting with Memphis on Friday. They trailed the Warriors by 13 points, were averaging just 0.857 points per possession and LeBron had just six points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor. Their spacing was poor and possessions were being wasted with Andre Drummond iso post-ups that ended in turnovers. Then, Frank Vogel and Anthony Davis decided to finally open things up, removed a true center from the floor and the game turned on a dime.
When Davis was playing power forward last night he went 1-of-11 from the floor; when Davis played center he went 9-of-13 and Los Angeles’ offense opened up. Cutting lanes were suddenly available, James and Davis pick-and-rolls tortured Warriors defenders and the Lakers went from well under a point per possession to a whopping 1.22 per possession in the second half.
During the regular season Davis played just 225 possessions at center, and Los Angeles posted a + 16.9 net rating in those minutes. Last night, the Lakers posted a + 32.0 net rating in the second half. It is pretty clear at this point that Davis needs to get over whatever it is he does not like about playing the five. Los Angeles is at its most dangerous when he does, and it almost had to play one more play-in game because of the refusal to do so.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Indiana Pacers at Washington Wizards (-3.5, 241)
If Indiana wants to find its way into the Eastern Conference postseason, it needs to figure out has been ailing its defense throughout the season, and in the three regular season meetings with Washington.
In the regular season, the Wizards went 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS against the Pacers with a 117.7 offensive rating and a + 5.6 net rating. The common theme in the losses for Indiana was a soft interior defense that allowed Washington to go a combined 72-of-90 within four feet of the hoop in the three games, and it is likely that problem won’t go away. Myles Turner is nowhere near a return, and with him off the floor Indiana allows opponents to take a staggering 40.5% of their attempts within four feet. They turned up against Charlotte on Tuesday, but containing Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook is a different beast.
Still, it was not difficult for Boston to contain Washington’s dynamic duo on Tuesday night. Beal and Westbrook combined for 42 points on 16-of-43 shooting (37.2%), and the Wizards had next to nothing from deep, going 3-of-21 as a team. If Washington is going to continue this run it has been on, these two need to recapture the form that led them to a 17-7 SU record over the final 24 games of the season. Beal and Westbrook decimated Indiana in the regular season, so there is hope they can come back to form. Beal averaged 38 points on 54.5% shooting and Westbrook put up an insane 27.3 points, 18 rebounds and 20 assists per game in the three contests against the Pacers.
We also have the dynamic that this is an elimination game. Despite these two teams ranking in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency, we have seen this total drop from 241 at the open to 237.5 at most shops. Elimination games tend to be tighter and slower. Every possession counts, and with a Game 7 atmosphere this game might be much lower scoring than the statistics bear out. That is what the market believes at least.