(Los Angeles) The Warriors, defending champions, will face the Lakers, titleholders in 2020, on Tuesday in the Western Conference semifinals, a tantalizing poster between these two teams not so often opposed in the NBA playoffs, unlike their superstars Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
It took a masterclass 50 points from the Golden State leader, setting a record on a decisive 7th game, to dismiss Sacramento (120-100). What to reap praise from all over the NBA planet, his performance having been described as “legendary” by Kevin Durant (Suns), the former idol of the Lakers Magic Johnson placing it among the greatest he has ever achieved, when the Coach Steve Kerr compared him to the illustrious Michael Jordan.
Always quick to react on social networks, LeBron James remained silent. Because the context of the reunion does not lend itself to tributes.
‘LBJ’ knows better than anyone how tough games against the Warriors can be, having lost three in four straight finals with the Cavaliers between 2015 and 2018, even though Cleveland won the 2016 one. , achieving what no team had ever done before: winning the series after trailing 3-1.
Arrived in Los Angeles in 2018, the one who had first been crowned in 2012 and 2013 with the Heat, added a fourth ring to his fingers in 2020, in Orlando’s anti-COVID-19 bubble. But he didn’t make it past the first round the following year, after knocking out Golden State in the play-offs, and even failed to make the playoffs last season.
Delayed play-offs, his Lakers nonetheless impressed to get rid (4-2) of Grizzlies much more tender than their provocative verb in the media implied, Dillon Brooks having only made a name for himself by stigmatizing the 38 years of the “King”, who did his best to silence him on the field.
“James vs. Curry”: this is therefore one of the most beautiful rivalries stamped NBA, revived five years later, one of those which make the other better. In 22 face-to-face in the playoffs, the second won 15 times, but the first never failed, averaging a triple-double (33 points, 11.5 rebounds, 9.3 assists) .
“It’s special to know that from the first meeting in 2015 until today, we are blessed to still be able to play at this level,” Warrior said.
If in 2017 and 2018, Kevin Durant, the most useful player of the finals, had been more dominant than him, Curry demonstrated last year against Boston that he knew how to lead a team to the coronation, by giving the impression of not never been stronger at 34. A year later, his historic performance in Sacramento proves that he still knows how to raise his level.
So much so that it is difficult to know who will emerge victorious from their duel, knowing that, this time, it is only a stage on the long road leading to a possible fifth title for one or the other. ‘other.
During a laborious regular season, the winter transfer window (arrivals of D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, departures of Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley…) changed a lot of things for the Lakers who finally found a collective momentum, also taking advantage of the good health of Anthony Davis, dominating inside.
“They became a different team, excellent defensively. LeBron is one of the greatest players of all time and they have a lot of talent. It will take a big push to beat them,” summed up Steve Kerr.
His team was pushed to its limits by Kings only beaten by experience and by that devil Curry. Back to the wall, she nevertheless let her champion DNA speak with a rediscovered defense, a sector that had been failing for a long time.
Since October, Los Angeles has won three out of four times. “But we’re all excited to play against them. It’s a legendary franchise. Warriors-Lakers, it’s been a long time since that happened” in the finals, pointed out shooter Klay Thompson, who was only a year old the last time it happened in 1991.
At the time, his father Mychal was part of the band at Magic Johnson, who won (4-1) in the conference semifinals. As almost always, because in seven series, the Warriors lost six times, their only victory (3-0) dating from 1967.