Why Warriors, Lakers deserve each other in NBA play-in tournament

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Why Warriors, Lakers deserve each other in play-in tournament originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

While the NBA and the vast majority of its fans are slobbering over the idea of the Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers facing each other in the play-in tournament, it's a safe bet that the two teams are not nearly as excited for that increasingly likely matchup.

Heck, LeBron James basically said as much.

His recent remarks that whoever came up with the idea for the play-in games "needs to be fired" were a peek into the insecurity that he and the Lakers feel about the prospect of facing Steph Curry and Draymond Green in a one-game playoff. Especially when you consider that he was championing the idea a year ago -- when it wouldn't have applied to his team.

The Warriors, similarly, can't be loving the way things are looking. Yes, the Lakers are banged up and have been struggling as of late, but compared to the other potential opponents (Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers), the Lakers easily present the most formidable challenge. Golden State would so much rather see Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, or Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, than face James and Anthony Davis.

Duh.

Neither the Warriors nor the Lakers should be in the play-in. And they can only blame themselves if that's where they end up.

And that's exactly why the Warriors and Lakers deserve each other.

The Lakers have no excuse. Any team with James and Davis on it should not fall outside of the top six teams in the conference. Point blank. Period.

Injuries are part of the game, and yes, those two have missed some significant time, but you can't look at their roster, then look at their record, and not come away certain that they've massively underachieved. The Lakers were far too lax in their approach at the beginning of the season, and ultimately, that has caught up to them in the end. If they fall to the play-in, it will be by a difference of one or two games at most.

They could have made up that difference. They should have made up that difference.

And similarly, the Warriors can only point the finger inward when coming to grips with landing in the play-in. Yes, they had a built-in excuse when Klay Thompson sustained a season-ending Achilles injury just hours before the draft, but nonetheless, they still should have finished in the top six.

However many games they finish behind the No. 6 seed in the West, that number will be fewer than the total of truly shocking, dumbfounding, pull-your-hair-out collapses the Warriors have had this season. The Feb. 20 loss in Charlotte to the Hornets probably tops the list, but the fact that it's even a question just goes to show what kind of season it has been. 

All of those blown leads in the final minutes, the defensive miscues, the missed free throws, the timeouts that weren't called ... all of it. That was the difference between being in the play-in and avoiding it.

So, the Lakers don't want to be in the play-in. The Warriors surely lament putting themselves in the situation they have.

And I don't want to hear it.

Both sides have earned the play-in designation. They deserve to be in it, and they deserve to be facing each other.

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If and when it happens, the Lakers surely will be heavy favorites, so one could argue Golden State has very little to lose in the NBA's dream play-in matchup. 

But when you consider the Warriors -- despite all of the inconsistency, despite the tough losses, despite not having Klay -- ultimately could end up being a higher playoff seed than their defending champion in-state rivals, well, they won't regret anything if they manage to pull off the upset.

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