While the basketball world on Monday turns its eyes on Kobe Bryant Night, the Warriors will try to lock in on a Lakers team that tends to put up a real challenge against them in Los Angeles.
Despite being beset with multiple injuries -- three starters that have missed most of the games this month will be out once again -- the Warriors (23-6) behind Kevin Durant have held it together well enough to achieve an eight-game win streak.
After a four-game road trip during which they went 2-2 against Eastern Conference foes, the Lakers (10-17) return to Staples Center to host the retirement of the two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, worn by Bryant during his legendary 20-year career.
The ceremony is scheduled to take place at halftime, which has been expanded from the usual 15 minutes to 21.
Warriors by 5.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Kevin Durant vs. Brandon Ingram: Ingram, in his second season, is often compared with Durant, who admits seeing similarities between the “small” forwards. Ingram, 20, is averaging 16.2 points per game, second among Lakers and in his last game torched the Cavs for 26 points, six rebounds and six assists. Durant has spent the last four games -- since Stephen Curry was knocked out of action -- rampaging through opponents. It’s reasonable to expect a few teacher-student moments.
Warriors: G Stephen Curry (R ankle sprain), F Draymond Green (R shoulder soreness), G Shaun Livingston (L knee soreness) and C Zaza Pachulia (L shoulder soreness) are listed as out.
Lakers: No injuries listed.
C Damian Jones has been activated by the Warriors from G-League Santa Cruz.
Warriors: 9-1. Lakers: 3-7
Bill Kennedy (crew chief), Curtis Blair, Leon Wood
The Warriors needed overtime to win the first of four meetings this season, 127-123, on Nov. 29 in LA. They won three of four last season and have won 12 of the last 15 meetings overall.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE POINT MEN: With Curry and Livingston out, the Warriors are forced to rely on third- and fourth-string point guards against heralded Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. Given Ball’s 6-foot-7 height, the logical option to start is 6-7 Pat McCaw, with 6-2 Quinn Cook slotted for backup minutes at the point. There will be others, such as Andre Iguodala and Durant, taking turns initiating the offense.
THE GIFTS: Only three teams commit more turnovers than the Warriors (16.2 per game), and one of them is the Lakers (17.1). The Lakers through giveaways are handing opponents an average of 19.3 points per game (third-highest in the league). The Warriors are gifting an average of 18 points per game, eighth highest. Put another way, the loser of this game is almost certain to bemoan turnovers.
THE POMP: With the Hollywood atmosphere sure to come with Bryant’s jerseys being hoisted into the rafter, it will be an emotional night. The experienced Warriors, having played in three consecutive NBA Finals, are accustomed to high-magnitude events. How will the Lakers, some of whom played with Bryant, handle it?