If the Lakers want to prove their relevance again in the Pacific Division, it starts with a tough battle in Oakland against the 18-9 Golden State Warriors. Recently, the Lakers own the warriors winning 17 of their last 18 meetings together and eight of nine at Oracle Arena. But this is not your typical Warriors team of late - with a Simple Rating System of 1.26, Mark Jackson has Golden State playing their best basketball since the '06-'07 season where they upset Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. In this column, I’ll preview the newfound strengths of the Warriors and highlight what the Lakers need to do to knock off their Nor-Cal foes.
Warriors of 2012
Simple Rating System, a team rating that factors in average point differential with strength of schedule, is the best measure of how good a team is now, even more so than a win-loss record. Numberfire has the Warriors ranked 12th in the NBA in S.R.S, so essentially the 12th best team in the NBA right now. Further, you have to go all the way back to the 1991-1992 season to find a Warrior team with a better Simple Rating than this year’s squad. The Mark Jackson-led Warriors are playing really good basketball due to their ability to shoot the ball, share the ball, and rebound.
The Warriors are shooting an effective percentage of 50.2 percent this year, good for eighth in the NBA. But most of that success can be attributed to their deadly outside shooting. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson rank second and third in the NBA in three-pointers and attempts respectively this year. Not to mention, with 616 team assists and a 75.2 percent rebounding percentage, both good for second in the league, the Warriors are not letting opponents second-chance points. This defensive style leads to getting out on the break and finding their good shooters on the open floor.
At a nearly 52 percent defensive factor, the Lakers are adept at defending good shooting teams. But going up against a team that defends the glass well and likes to run the floor, L.A. will need to capitalize on second-chance baskets. Thanks to Dwight Howard, and recently Metta World Peace, the Lakers are the fifth best offensive rebounding team in the league. On the flip side, Golden State is the second best defensive rebounding team. Thus, it will be fun to watch the battle inside between Howard and David Lee. If Howard can assert himself against Lee, and most importantly, make clutch free throws, the Lakers will have a great shot at beating the first place Warriors.