EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Before LeBron James walked off the practice court to speak to reporters Monday, he tracked down a loose ball near the half-court line and flung it over his right shoulder back toward the basket where he had just been shooting with Anthony Davis.
The ball swished clean through the net.
"Not bad," James said.
And not a bad approximation of the type of shot-making the Los Angeles Lakers can expect to see out of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors when their second-round series opens up with Game 1 on Tuesday in San Francisco.
"They obviously shoot a lot of 3s," Lakers guard Austin Reaves said. "Transition 3s. You know, just 3s everywhere, honestly."
James knows the Warriors' strengths all too well. This will be his sixth postseason meeting with Golden State. Golden State beat his Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in 2015, 2017 and 2018. James' Cavs beat the Warriors in the 2016 Finals and James' Lakers beat them in the play-in tournament in 2021.
"Just two of the most competitive players that have ever played this game," James said of the dynamic between him and Curry. "And we want to etch our names in the history books as much as we can. But playing and doing it our own way."
James is a four-time champion, a four-time Finals MVP, a four-time MVP and the leading scorer in league history. Curry is a four-time champion, a one-time Finals MVP, a two-time MVP and the league's all-time leader in 3-pointers made.
"[Curry] puts in the work," James said. "And when you put in the work, nine times out of 10 you're going to see the results. And he's done that throughout his whole, entire career. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Steph and everything he's been able to accomplish, not only on the floor but also off the floor, too. It's just great to have people like that in this league to set an example for the generation to come."
The defending champs, seeded No. 6 in the Western Conference, are still alive thanks to Curry's 50-point performance Sunday to beat the Sacramento Kings, the most points ever by a player in a Game 7.
"You've seen some of the shots, the routine shots, that Steph was making in Game 7 that everybody was going crazy after," James said. "That's just Steph. When you're that great, you make tough shots like that. So, we've got to be locked in and not hurt ourselves."
Los Angeles, the No. 7 seed, has been off since Friday when it demolished the Memphis Grizzlies 125-85 to win its first-round series in six games, becoming the first team to upset a No. 2 seed in the opening round since the San Antonio Spurs in 2010.
The Lakers won the season series 3-1 against Golden State but there's little to glean from those games. They played on opening night back in October when Los Angeles had a completely different roster. Then they played three times from mid-February through early March, with the Lakers taking all three games, but Curry and James both missed two of those games -- not to mention Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II missing time for Golden State in that stretch and D'Angelo Russell being out for one of the matchups for Los Angeles.
Tactically, the series could hinge more on what Anthony Davis and Kevon Looney do for their respective teams to control the paint than on how James and Curry fare.
But the spotlight will be shining on the 38-year-old James and 35-year-old Curry -- and deservedly so. There might not be too many of these matchups left for them.
"It's the best rivalry of this generation ... those two players," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. "It's going to be another fun battle."