LOS ANGELES -- Standing in the lobby of UCLA's Mo Ostin Center, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself in a unique scenario in his latest trip to Southern California.
During his coaching tenure, he's won 80 percent of his games against the team he grew up rooting for, including 10 of the last 12 matchups. Now, in a trend Kerr knows all too well, his team seems to be declining as the Lakers are ascending, prompting a familiar question from the coach Wednesday afternoon.
"Have the Warriors and Lakers ever been up at the same time in the history of our league?"
The current iteration of each team's roster indicates the answer is a resounding "no." Four months ago, Los Angeles acquired all-star big man Anthony Davis, pairing him with LeBron James to form one of the league's best duos. Additionally, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka surrounded the core with two-way veterans like Avery Bradley and Danny Green.
Meanwhile, Golden State's season remains in peril. No longer the prohibitive favorites to win the title, the Warriors have fallen from contention altogether. In five months, they have lost vital pieces, including Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and superstar guard Steph Curry to injury. By Wednesday evening, Golden State could conceivably suit up just nine players at Staples Center.
The current circumstances mirror the history between both teams. In four postseason matchups, the Lakers have never lost. When the Warriors won their first title on the West Coast in 1975, the Lakers failed to make the postseason. Twelve years later, when the teams played in the first round of the 1987 postseason, the top-seeded Lakers took care of the fifth-ranked Warriors in five games. Four years later, the eighth-seeded Warriors lost again in the first round in four games.
Fast forward to 2015-2019, where the Warriors won three titles in five years while the Lakers were rebuilding, failing to reach the playoffs over that stretch. The course seemed to change 16 months ago, when superstar forward LeBron James signed with the team in free agency. Los Angeles responded by a 20-14 start, including a 127-101 Christmas Day drubbing of the Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Then a groin injury -- suffered in the matchup against the Warriors -- sidelined James for much of the season. Adding to the peril, front office turmoil led to the resignation of Vice President Magic Johnson before the season finale and the eventual ousting of coach Luke Walton.
"It looked to me like they were going to be pretty good," Kerr said. "And then they had their own challenges with injuries and other stuff."
Now, Lakers are on top. Following a victory Tuesday night in Phoenix, they're at the top of the Western Conference. Davis -- who isn't expected to play Wednesday night against Golden State -- is averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, while James continues to be one of the league's best players, solidifying one of the best cores in the league.
"It's not surprising," Kerr admitted. "LeBron is one of the best passers in the history of the game. He's got Anthony to work with as a pick-and-pop guy, as a lob threat. You talk about two of the most talented players in the game and they both have great feels so it's not at all surprising."
Hope may be on the way for Golden State to balance the matchup going forward. Curry, Green and Thompson are all expected to be healthy by the start of next season, bringing back the core formidable enough to go against Los Angeles.
"They've been good for a long time," Kerr said. "And they're good again and we're trying to get there."