LeBron James and Stephen Curry have played in the NBA Finals four times. They’ve played each other on Christmas just as often. They faced off in the play-in tournament last season and have battled each other in the regular season 16 times. But never in the 12 seasons they’ve shared in the NBA have the two of them squared off on opening night.
Well, that’s about to change. After the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets to kick off the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors in a nightcap that will look very familiar to basketball fans everywhere. Here’s how you can tune into the latest battle between two of the greatest players of this generation.
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 19 | 10 p.m. ETLocation: Staples Center — Los Angeles, CaliforniaTV: TNT | Live stream: TNT
Odds: LAL -170; GSW + 145 | Over/Under: 229 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Lakers: For the third time in four seasons, the Lakers are introducing a new superstar into the mix on opening night. The additions of LeBron James and Anthony Davis led to a championship in 2020, but how will Russell Westbrook fare with the already-established duo? It’s an uncomfortable fit to say the least. James and Davis have thrived with shooting surrounding them. Westbrook provides almost none of that, but his playmaking will take some of the burden off of James to run the entire Laker offense.
They’ll have their work cut out for them in this matchup, though, because right now, the Lakers are at considerably less than full strength. Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza are both expected to miss roughly eight weeks due to injury. Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Wayne Ellington are all day-to-day as well. The Lakers are going to have to shuffle their rotation around quite a bit in the coming days, and opening night will be our first glimpse at how they want to manage this roster.
Warriors: The Warriors opened last season with a developmental mindset. James Wiseman was a starter. Kelly Oubre was given a chance to earn a place in the long-term core. Players fresh out of the G-League were overloaded with opportunities to prove they belonged in the NBA. And then Wiseman and Oubre got hurt, the Warriors needed to get serious to reach the postseason, and lo and behold, they went 14-5 following Wiseman’s injury. When Stephen Curry and Draymond Green play with solid veterans, they remain among the NBA’s best duos.
So the question entering this season becomes just how dedicated the Warriors are to winning right now? Wiseman is still out, but rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody will need developmental minutes. Can the Warriors sacrifice those minutes if their goal is to win the championship? Is the goal to win with Curry, or build a team that can win after he’s gone? Opening night will be Steve Kerr’s first chance to balance those two competing agendas.
LeBron James hasn’t won a single opening night game since joining the Lakers. He lost his debut games with the Heat and Cavaliers (the second time around) as well. History says that LeBron needs time to adjust to new teammates, and Russell Westbrook is about as difficult to adjust to as any teammate in NBA history. For now, that makes the Warriors the wise pick as an underdog. Pick: Warriors +4