Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is dealing with an ankle injury, but will start against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in Los Angeles. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
May 19 (UPI) -- One Play-In Tournament game holds Game 7-level energy Wednesday when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Golden State Warriors. LeBron James also looks to improve on his lackluster record against Stephen Curry-led teams.
The Lakers and Warriors tip off at 10 p.m. EDT at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The game airs on ESPN.
Curry and James share a mutual respect for their respective greatness. Earlier this week, James said Curry should win the 2020-21 NBA MVP Award.
"I can talk about how great [James] is until I'm blue in the face and he could do the same, but it doesn't change how we approach this competition," Curry told reporters Tuesday. "I won't give him a pass because he likes the way I play and vice versa."
James' Lakers, the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, enter the game as heavy favorites to advance to the first round of the playoffs.
Curry's No. 8 Warriors either need to upset the Lakers or win in another Play-In Tournament game against the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies-San Antonio Spurs matchup Friday to claim the final playoff spot in the West.
Curry enters Wednesday's game as one of the hottest players in the league. The Warriors sharpshooter averaged an NBA-high 32 points per game in the regular season. The two-time NBA MVP and three-time champion made 42% of his 3-point attempts.
"They are playing extremely well," Lakers forward-center Anthony Davis told reporters Tuesday. "I think they are on a winning streak. We know who the head of the snake is: it's Steph.
"We have to do our best to contain him."
The Warriors won eight of their final nine regular-season games to scrape into the playoffs. Curry averaged 36.8 points per game over that span.
"We are playing against, in my opinion, the MVP our league this year," James told reporters Monday. "We have to prepare for everything they have."
The Lakers were on an opposite trajectory this season compared to the Warriors. The defending champions started the season 21-6, but were ravaged by injuries midway through the year. They slipped down the standings and now must win in a Play-In game for a shot to defend their title.
James, who missed 27 games this season, returned Saturday from an injury hiatus of nearly two-months, but isn't at full strength. The Lakers are on a five-game winning streak.
"We are finally starting to get whole," James said.
Curry vs. LeBron
Stephen Curry is 22-16 overall in games played against LeBron James-led teams. James owns a 9-7 edge in regular-season matchups, but Curry is 16-7 against James in the playoffs.
"We've probably played LeBron 40 times over the last six or seven years," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Tuesday. "LeBron is always a brilliant basketball player in every facet, including defense. We have to do a good job of executing and be aware of where he is."
James' Lakers beat Curry's Warriors in their last two matchups. Curry led James 21-13 in the head-to-head series before James joined the Lakers. The latest Lakers-Warriors matchups haven't featured either teams' full roster of players due to injuries.
The All-Stars first matched up when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Warriors 114-108 on Nov. 17, 2009.
James is averaging 30.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game against Curry's teams. Curry is averaging 23.6 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game in the series.
Curry is a 39% shooter from 3-point range in playoff matchups against James. James has made 34% of his 3-pointers in the postseason face offs.
"We anticipate they are going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph," Kerr said.