Lakers vs. Warriors: What to watch

After the early upheaval today, there’s still a game to be played tonight.

For more insight on the Warriors, I sent some questions to J.M. Poulard, who covers the team for the True Hoop network's Warrior's World. Below are his responses.

Andy Kamenetzky: Five games into the season, how would you describe the Warriors' style of play? What type of matchup do you think they present for the Lakers?

J.M. Poulard: The 20-minute cap on Andrew Bogut’s minutes coupled with Stephen Curry’s struggles to effectively run the offense make it as such that the Warriors have a small identity crisis. They have been surprisingly good with Jarrett Jack on the court -- even when paired with Curry in the backcourt -- which would have you think that they are a good small-ball team. But they actually stick to traditional positions for the most part. That’s essentially a long-winded way of saying they are a selective, fast-breaking team that tries to masquerade itself as a good half-court team … for now.

As for the matchup, it stands to reason the Warriors will attack the trapping Pau Gasol in the pick-and-roll, then try to generate shots from 3-point range as a result of the action. They'll also progressively attack the interior to take advantage of a backpedaling Dwight Howard.

AK: With Bogut sidelined, how do you expect the Warriors to approach the Lakers frontline?

JP: The Warriors will deploy the combination of Festus Ezeli, David Lee, Carl Landry and Andris Biedrins against the tandem of Howard and Gasol. Ezeli is a big, physical player that will probably frustrate Howard a little, but he will have to foul to try to contain Howard for the most part, which means that D12 will see a lot of minutes against Landry and Biedrins; none of which can hope to match him physically. As it pertains to Pau Gasol, he will be the butcher in our horror flick in which Lee gets shredded to pieces on the block as well as the perimeter.

(AK's note: In order for Gasol to become the effective butcher described by Poulard, he must avoid bringing a cleaver to a gunfight. Every weapon in his well-rounded arsenal must be employed. Say what you will about Gasol's occasional lack of touches or habitual residence -- often by design -- in the mid-to-high post, but Pau does have more say over matters than he sometimes allows himself. In particular, there's the option of putting the ball on the floor, a choice Gasol doesn't make nearly enough. The more Pau attacks, the more generally aggressive he grows, and the Lakers need him to become more of a presence.)

Last season, Mark Jackson successfully deployed a zone defense against the Lakers and may opt to use it in short stretches just to disrupt the timing of a group that has yet to truly figure out how to maximize all of their offensive potential. Also, if the purple and gold struggle hitting from the outside, the Dubs might borrow Utah's blueprint from Wednesday and dare players attempting to feed the post to shoot the ball by sagging off them to effectively minimize passing angles to the box.

AK: One of the Lakers' big undoings this season has been a propensity for turnovers. Is this something you picture the Warriors being able to capitalize on?

JP: The Warriors are a middle of the pack team in terms of fast break, but love to run when they generate turnovers to get out in transition and that will definitely be a point of emphasis against a team that’s struggled with transition defense. Golden State’s players will swipe at the ball and try to get into passing lanes to force miscues on the Lakers’ perimeter players, but don’t be surprised to see them try to help and recover when Howard has the ball on the block just to bait him into mistakes.

AK: Prediction?

JP: It’s tempting to simply state that the Lakers have too much talent and will eventually figure things out, but that’s the easy route. The Lakers will be victorious in this contest because their frontline will simply run amok against the Warriors’ and get every single frontcourt player into foul trouble. Naturally, I’m inclined to say that this matchup alone is heavily in favor of the purple and gold and helps decide the contest. I will offer this tidbit though: If I were Mark Jackson, I’d be tempted to defend Kobe with a smaller player just to see if the Lakers post him up at the expense of their big men, to save them from foul trouble.

After the early chaos today, there’s still a game to be played tonight.