Warriors

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

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AP

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors haven’t won a home game in nearly six weeks, but the absence of LeBron James on Thursday leaves ajar the door to victory.

Slightly ajar, we should say.

James will be on the sideline nursing a groin injury when the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers (44-12) visit the last-place Warriors (12-46) at Chase Center. Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6:30 p.m., with tipoff of the TNT telecast scheduled for 7:30.

The Warriors, in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, also have dropped their last seven at home, the last win being a 109-95 throttling of the Orlando Magic on Jan. 18. Draymond Green's return after a two-game absence should provide leadership and a degree of stability.

The Lakers have won six consecutive games and have stated the goal of securing the No. 1 seed in the conference. LA entered Thursday with a five-game lead over the second-place Denver Nuggets.

The Warriors lost the first two matchups of the season, including a 120-94 Lakers rout on Nov. 13 in LA and a narrow 125-120 victory on Feb. 8 at Chase.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Lakers
F Danny Green
F Anthony Davis
C JaVale McGee
G Rajon Rondo
G Avery Bradley

Warriors
F Marquese Chriss
F Draymond Green
C Dragan Bender
G Damian Lee
G Jordan Poole

INJURY REPORT

Lakers: F Anthony Davis (left elbow soreness) is listed as probable. F LeBron James (groin soreness) is listed as out.

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (left hand fracture) and G Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab) are listed as out. F Andrew Wiggins (upper back spasms) was a late scratch. F/C Alen Smailagic is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the G League.

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Lakers: With James out, Kuzma likely will get his seventh start of the season. Another option available to coach Frank Vogel would be to insert wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, three inches shorter than the 6-foot-8 Kuzma, at small forward because KCP is a better defensive option against Wiggins. ... Kuzma’s 12.5 points per game rank third on the team and No. 1 in scoring among LA reserves. Backup center Dwight Howard is No. 2 at 7.7 points per game. ... James has missed only two previous games this season, with the Lakers splitting those games. ... The Lakers are undefeated (17-0) against Western Conference teams away from LA. Their lone "road" loss came at Staples Center on opening night against the host Clippers. ... They average 7.0 blocks per game, with Davis at 2.5, McGee at 1.5 and backup Howard at 1.3 per game. ... If you’re looking for a vulnerable area, try these two: The Lakers are 14-9 when they shoot fewer free throws than opponents, and they are 3-4 when featured on TNT.

Warriors: The return of Green, who has missed 16 games this season, sends rookie Eric Paschall back to the bench after two starts at power forward. ... On the bench and healthy: Center Dragan Bender, point guard Ky Bowman, big man Kevon Looney, shooting guard Mychal Mulder and small forward Juan Toscano-Anderson. Mulder was added to the roster Wednesday after signing a 10-day contract. He averaged 17.0 points per game in 39 games (34 starts) with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the G League. ... Poole averaged 15.7 points over his last seven games, shooting 44.6 percent from the field, including 23.9 percent from distance. ... Chriss has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 13 games, averaging 14.2 points over that stretch on 63.9 percent shooting from the field. ... The last Warriors rookie to post more than 40 games with at least 10 points was Klay Thompson in 2011-12. With 24 games remaining, Paschall has 36 such games. ... The Warriors have utilized 29 different starting lineups this season. That's their highest since 2009-10, when they tried 49 starting lineups.

Officials: Ken Mauer (crew chief), Tyler Ford, Marat Kogut.

What separates Steph Curry as favorite among all Bay Area MVP athletes

What separates Steph Curry as favorite among all Bay Area MVP athletes

Bay Area sports fans have been blessed with an abundance of MVPs in their own backyard.

Since the Giants moved to San Francisco from New York, a member of the team has won the MVP award 10 separate times. The A's haven't been as individually dominant, but they've won four MVP awards during their tenure in Oakland.

The 49ers have accounted for five MVP awards, while the Raiders have two to their name -- not including the one Marcus Allen won while in Los Angeles. The Warriors have two, while the Kings are still looking for their first. Both San Jose teams -- the Sharks and the Earthquakes -- each have one.

Yep, there has been no shortage of historic individual performances on Bay Area teams. Several of them currently exist as one of the standard-bearers in their respective sports. But, it begs the question: Which individual Bay Area MVP stands above the rest? How would one even decide?

Well, allow me to take a shot at it.

NBC Sports Bay Area compiled eight former Bay Area MVPs in a tweet Saturday, asking fans to choose their favorite in a "March Madness"-esque bracket. Some head-to-head battles were easier to decide than others, and arriving at an overall winner was like splitting hairs.

For the first round, let's start in the top right corner and work clockwise.

Curry vs. Wondo:

Apologies to Mr. Wondolowski, but this was the easiest choice of them all. The MLS' all-time leader in goals scored brought home the only MVP award in Earthquakes franchise history back in 2012 when he scored 27 goals across 32 matches in leading San Jose to the championship.

Those are fantastic, MVP numbers. But they're not worthy of being unanimous.

There has been only one unanimous MVP throughout the history of the NBA, and his name is Steph Curry. He won it in 2015-16 after producing arguably the most impressive season by a guard in the history of the league -- which one-upped the MVP award he won the prior season.

Wondo will go down as one of the best scorers in MLS history. Curry literally changed the way the game is played, and did something no other MVP ever had.

Bonds vs. Thornton:

One guy was ridiculously left off the league's list of the top 100 players in the sport. The other is the most prolific power hitter in the history of baseball, and yet still somehow undeserving of the Hall of Fame. Baloney.

Joe Thornton has been overlooked and underappreciated throughout much of his career, but that was impossible to do when the Sharks acquired him in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season. His sheer talent lifted the entire team as soon as he arrived, as Thornton led San Jose to the playoffs and was named the league's MVP after totaling a career-high 96 assists and 125 points.

While Thornton absolutely deserved to be named MVP that season, it remains the only one he has ever won. Barry Bonds, meanwhile, won five with the Giants -- in addition to the two he won with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Advantage: Bonds.

Mays vs. Young:

This one's tough.

Steve Young won two MVP awards in a span of three years, and might have won more had he not been stuck behind Joe Montana (we'll get to him in a moment) for the first part of his career. His mobility and passing accuracy were a deadly combination, particularly with the greatest player in NFL history, Jerry Rice, on the other end of many of his passes.

Young is one of the greatest players in 49ers history. But he's not on the shortlist of the best ever to play his sport.

The same can't be said for Willie Mays. A prototype for the modern five-tool player, there wasn't any weakness in his game. In addition to being a two-time MVP (although only one came in San Francisco), Mays was a 24-time All-Star and 12-time Gold Glove winner. His legendary over-the-head catch at the Polo Grounds remains one of the greatest individual plays in the history of baseball.

Mays advances, though Young got unlucky with the bracket.

Montana vs. Henderson:

Rickey Henderson won the MVP in 1990, and was liable to steal any others that were left hanging around. Despite retiring following the 2003 season, Henderson's 1,406 career stolen bases are still 468 more than his closest competitor. But he wasn't all speed, clearly. The season he won the MVP, he tied a career-high with 28 home runs. He literally led the A's to the World Series that season, where they fell short and were eventually swept by the Cincinnati Reds.

Joe Montana was named the NFL's MVP in back-to-back seasons in 1989 and 1990, both of which culminated in the 49ers winning the Super Bowl. For that reason, Joe Cool advances.

The Final Four

Curry vs. Bonds

Holy moly. This one is impossible.

Both Curry and Bonds revolutionized their respective sports. During their MVP seasons, both struck more fear into the hearts of their opponents than any other player in the league. Bonds made splash hits into McCovey Cove a thing. Curry literally splashed his way into the NBA record books. In terms of sheer talent and prominence, I'd argue both Curry and Bonds belong on the Bay Area's Mount Rushmore.

But ...

Despite his best efforts, Bonds was never able to push the Giants over the top. He came very close, but that damn rally monkey ...

Not only did the Warriors win a championship in one of Curry's MVP seasons, but he will forever be the poster child for ushering in a completely new -- and successful -- era of Golden State basketball.

Curry advances to the finals.

Montana vs. Mays

Legend versus legend. San Francisco icon against San Francisco icon. Talk about a toss-up.

From an individual statistic standpoint, Mays might be the pick. But he never won a World Series in San Francisco. In fact, when he won the MVP in 1968, the rival Dodgers won it all. Yuck.

Winning is fun, and it matters -- and Montana did a lot of it. Those Lombardi trophies talk.

Montana to the finals.

The Finals

Curry vs. Montana

Like I said, splitting hairs. When you get this far down the line and are forced to choose between such legendary players, there's no wrong answer.

And yet ...

Montana left the 49ers. Granted, it wasn't entirely his choice, but he finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, and that left a sour taste in many fans' mouths. 

Curry is the Warriors' homegrown savior. He personifies the franchise's transition from laughingstock to perennial contender, and breathed basketball life into a region that had been subsisting off life support for oh so long. While nothing is written in stone, here's betting that Curry remains a Warrior for life.

That shouldn't be the deciding factor in this bracket, but with so many great Bay Area MVPs to choose from, you've got to draw the line somehow.

Favorite Bay Area MVP: Steph Curry

Which is your favorite? Make your voice heard, and respond on Twitter.

Warriors' historic 2017 greatness punctuated by Game 2 Finals win vs. Cavs

Warriors' historic 2017 greatness punctuated by Game 2 Finals win vs. Cavs

Programming note: Relive Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals when NBC Sports Bay Area re-airs the Warriors' win over the Cavaliers on Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. PT.

Their mission began three months before they convened in Oakland for late-September training camp. Winning alone was not going to be enough, not for these Warriors, not for this season. They wanted to exact revenge for all the negative noise.

All the chatter surrounding Kevin Durant upon his July 4th decision to leave Oklahoma City to join the team that defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western ConferencefFinals five weeks earlier.

At the start of the 2017 playoffs, the Warriors turned punitive. The goal was to leave opponents face-down at midcourt, twitching from head to toe. They swept the first three rounds, psychologically dominating the Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Spurs before throttling them with offense and burying them with defense to stand with the greatest machines in sports history.

One series, The Finals, against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, remained between the Warriors and their second championship in three seasons -- and avenging the events of the 2016 Finals.

After Game 1, in which the Warriors rolled to a 113-91 blowout, Game 2 –- which NBC Sports Bay Area is re-airing Saturday night at 8 p.m. -- came with a subplot that lent curiosity.

Coach Steve Kerr was back.

Kerr had stepped away six weeks earlier, before Game 3 of the first round in Portland, to give his body a break from the pain and misery stalking him after two back surgeries in the summer of 2015. Lead assistant Mike Brown had stepped in as interim head coach and gone 10-0.

Kerr’s return, to a rousing ovation at Oracle Arena, was a new wrinkle for a streaking squad. Would it inspire? Would it disrupt? Well, the Warriors opened Game 2 in a slumber, trailing by five less than two minutes into the game.

“I heard when I got to the arena that he was doing his press conference,” Steph Curry said of Kerr’s return, which was announced less than two hours before tipoff.

The Warriors committed eight turnovers in the first quarter -- each starter gifted one within the first eight minutes -- but refocused and reeled off a 22-7 run, taking a 40-34 lead into the second quarter.

The Cavs, however, would not give up. Down as much as 12 early in the second quarter, they cut it to one before going into halftime trailing 67-64.

The Warriors then remembered their mission. To squash without remorse. Curry and Durant combined for 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field, including 5-of-10 from distance, after intermission. Durant submitted game-highs in points (33) and rebounds (13) rebounds. Curry totaled 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to achieve the first postseason triple-double of his career in the Warriors' 132-113 win.

"It seemed like it's personal for both of them,” Draymond Green said of Curry and Durant. "And you’re talking about two of the greatest players that we got in this world locked in the way they are? That's why we're up 2-0."

No doubt it was. Curry surely remembered the final seconds of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, when his snug defense on Kyrie Irving could not prevent the Cavs guard from draining the game- and title-winning shot at Oracle, forcing the Warriors to live with being the only team to blow a 3-1 lead in The Finals in NBA history.

Durant was, for his part, acutely aware that this series was, in the eye of many, about he and James. The loser would face a long summer, the winner would own bragging rights while also punching a hole through the perception of the loser.

Going up 2-0, Curry and Durant were halfway to the sweep they so fervently desired.

“It's been a great run,” Kerr said, assessing the team’s 14th consecutive postseason win. “But none of that matters unless we can finish the job with this series. "Trust me, we know. It was 2-0 last year. We lost."

They didn’t lose this time. After winning Game 3 in Cleveland three days later, the Warriors fell 137-116 in Game 4 and returned home to take Game 5 and settle for the “gentleman’s sweep.”

[RELATED: The night Klay earned his reputation as a bonafide flamethrower]

They are the only team in NBA postseason history to finish with a 16-1 record (the 2001 Lakers went 15-1). Twelve of the wins were by double digits, five by at least 20 points.

“You cannot simulate what they bring to the table, no matter how many days you have to prepare,” said James, practically reaching for a white flag to raise. “I’ve seen a lot of great teams, and they rank right up there.”

The Game 2 victory eased minds of those concerned about whether Kerr’s return would be an issue. Moreover, it was one of 16 postseason messages sent by the Warriors to the rest of the NBA and all those who had been critical of KD and the franchise.