Lakers Double Dip with Warriors

59919514In the next two nights, you’ll get to know the Golden State Warriors very well.

The Bay Area team will, after all, be L.A.’s preseason opponent for both Thursday and Friday night’s games, respectively taking place in San Diego and Ontario.

What should you watch for? Take a look below:

1) SLEEPING GIANTS? After L.A.’s Tuesday night loss to Utah in Anaheim, backup point guard Steve Blake said he understood that the Lakers were steadily building into the regular season, but wouldn’t having at least one complete effort before Ring Night against the Rockets. In other words, it’s been quite clear that despite a few flashes, we haven’t seen much from the Lakers just yet. So, will the Warriors be the unfortunate punching bag? Maybe not on Thursday, when Phil Jackson said Kobe Bryant may not play in San Diego, but perhaps on Friday in Ontario we’ll see the Lakers unleash the beast. The game is, after all, on national TV (ESPN), and the Purple and Gold will have the entire weekend plus Monday to rest up afterwards. Makes sense.

2) FUN & GUN: Sure, former Warriors head coach Don Nelson loved to get his squad up and down the floor to score, often with little regard for defense, but just because former assistant Keith Smart is taking his place this year doesn’t mean the brakes are being applied. The Warriors still averaged over 100 points in their first six preseason games (3-3) despite heavy minutes doled out to reserves. Quick guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry still pair with mobile big man David Lee, a free agent acquisition from New York, Andris Biedrins and former Miami wing Dorrell Wright to form a team meant to wear track shoes. L.A.’s size has always been a difficult counter punch to Golden State’s speed, but with Andrew Bynum out and the fact that these games don’t count, maybe the Lakers will be goaded into some Fun & Gun themselves?

3) (MINOR) INJURY RETURNS: We should see the return of Sasha Vujacic (concussion), Derrick Caracter (back spasms) and Luke Walton (hamstring) in either or both games. Neither figures to receive major minutes throughout the season, but each could play a key reserve role for Phil Jackson, and full health to do so. Vujacic and Caracter should be just fine, while Walton says his back is feeling great and hamstring was strong enough to practice on this week.

4) (ALMOST) R.O.Y. In one of the tougher NBA postseason awards ballots, Stephen Curry lost out to Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans for Rookie of the Year honors despite a huge closing push. In eight April games, Curry averaged 26.4 points, 8.1 assists and 6.4 rebounds on 46.9 percent field goals and 47.2 percent three-pointers, just absurd numbers. He wasn’t much worse in February and March, and finished his maiden campaign averaging 17.5 points, 5.9 assists and 4.5 boards on 46 percent shooting and 43.7 percent from three, which also happens to be L.A.’s all-time franchise-best three-point conversion percentage (Sasha Vujacic, 2007-08). The high percentages help counter the argument that Curry only produced such numbers because he was playing in the Fun & Gun system.

5) BLAKE, BARNES AND BROWN OFF THE BENCH: Perhaps the biggest bright spot in L.A.’s 2-4 preseason start has been the energetic, effective play off the bench from newcomers Steve Blake and Matt Barnes and returner Shannon Brown. The three helped lead L.A. back from deficits against Utah several times across Sunday and Tuesday’s losses, and have more than a few times beaten Phil Jackson’s starters in practice scrimmages. The group can only get stronger with the return of Andrew Bynum to the starting line up, since Lamar Odom will join up, but in the meantime the unit is already looking to be a step up from last season.

6) FEWER WARRIOR THREES: The Warriors lost one of the league’s best three-point shooters when choosing not to re-sign Anthony Morrow (New Jersey), not to mention another long-distance slinger in C.J. Watson (Chicago). And while Curry, Vladimir Radmanovic and to a lesser degree Ellis can still hit at a high rate from downton, Golden State isn’t expecting to shoot as many deep perimeter J’s. Smart has put in more of a defensive focus than in season’s past, but the team will still look to run at every opportunity.