The Golden State Warriors (45-34) will be at Staples Center tonight to take on the Los Angeles Lakers (42-37). Warriors World reached out to Darius Soriano and Rey Moralde of Forum Blue and Gold, the Los Angeles Lakers ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate Blog, to get their take on the team and the contest.
1. Fact or fiction: Kobe Bryant All-NBA 1st Team?
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: Fact. I believe Chris Paul will get one guard spot and while the other spot could go to several different deserving players (James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker), I think Kobe will be (and should be) the choice. The combination of his production, how he’s excelled in multiple roles in carrying the Lakers’ offense, and the advanced stage of his career that he’s doing it all is enough to earn him this honor. Again, though, there are several deserving choices and there shouldn’t be any outrage should any of the above guys get the nod.
Rey Moralde, Forum Blue and Gold: Fact: Kobe will probably get it. I don’t think the media will give 1st Team honors to James Harden, Russell Westbrook, or Dwyane Wade (Chris Paul will be in the 1st team as the other guard). Considering how many great performances Kobe has had over this season, including that 47-point game against Portland, I don’t see why he doesn’t deserve it. Kobe also has averages of 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. Doesn’t that seem 1st Team material to you? I think so.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: Fact. Between production and reputation, Kobe Bryant seems like a sure bet for another All-NBA 1st team selection. Also, given that voters submit their ballots so close to the end of the season, those that close out the campaign with a bang tend to benefit from an extra boost. Since March 30, Bryant is averaging 28 points, 9.2 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game. So yeah, he’s in.
2. Is the 2010 version of Pau Gasol back?
Darius Soriano: I’m hesitant to say he’s totally at that level, but he’s as close as he’s been since the early part of the 2011 campaign where he still being referred to as the “most skilled big man” in the league. He’s finally looking healthy and seems to be past the ailments that sapped him of his quick first step and ability to elevate on his shot. He’s moving better on both sides of the floor and is back to creating from the post for the majority of his offense. Combine that with his passing and rebounding and he’s again a difference maker, which is so important for this Lakers’ team.
Rey Moralde: It’s been a good stretch but I’m still a little skeptical. At least, Mike D’Antoni has put him in a position where he can succeed and that’s putting him in the high post area where he can play some high-lows with Dwight Howard. If he continues to do his playmaking from there then I don’t see why he can’t be the 2009 or 2010 version of himself. But I’d like to see him do this on a prolonged stretch. If he lays an egg in a playoff game, then everyone is going to raise some questions about the Spaniard again.
J.M. Poulard: It’s awfully tempting to give Pau Gasol the nod here but I need to see a little more. His back-to-back performances this week against the New Orleans Hornet and Portland Trail Blazers were awfully dominant and at the same time impressive. But one has to consider the competition. Anthony Davis was completely outmatched against the more seasoned veteran and Portland used a host of bodies not yet ready for battle with the Spaniard. Gasol deserves all the credit for dismantling them but I need to see it against quality opposition before making the statement he’s back to 2010 levels.
3. Fact or fiction: Lakers would win a seven-game series versus Warriors.
Darius Soriano: Not to come off as too homer-ish, but I lean towards fact. The Warriors have a lot of ways to hurt the Lakers’ porous defense, primarily with Curry and Thompson’s ability to stretch the floor and with Jack’s change of pace off the bench. When you add in Lee’s versatility, that’s a lot of weapons. However, I still believe that the Warriors would struggle to slow down Kobe and in a playoff series that’s likely to be slower than the regular season games, I think the Lakers’ big men will be better than the Warriors’ and tilt the series in their direction. It would be a fascinating series, though, and I could definitely see it going 7 games with the series being decided by only a handful of plays.
Rey Moralde: Fact: I’m not totally confident about the Lakers beating any of the Top 5 teams in the West in a seven-game series. However, the Warriors, I can see the Lakers defeating if they were ever to meet in the playoffs. I know the Lakers would always have trouble closing out on the shooters and Jarrett Jack seems to have career games every time he plays Los Angeles. But the Lakers, especially with the newfound confidence of Gasol, can dominate inside. Howard is getting healthier. And Kobe’s domain is the playoffs, something the Warriors haven’t been in with this current team. Experience is something the Warriors lack and something the Lakers have a ton of. Plus if the Warriors go into the postseason now and they faced the Lakers, they would be going in with no momentum whatsoever. And to quote the great Phil Jackson, “Mo is such a bi…” well, you know the rest.
J.M. Poulard: Fact. The Lakers have had the Warriors’ number in recent seasons and it’s still the case. The Dubs always had a solid backcourt but finally have a frontline to compete with the Lakers’ and that has narrowed the gap. But ultimately, Kobe Bryant has just broken the hearts of Warriors fans far too often. He’s the one guy that continuously tips the scales in favor of the Purple and Gold. This season alone, he’s averaged 32.3 points and 9 rebounds per game versus Golden State and there’s no reason to expect any different.