3 keys for the Lakers in Game 6 versus the Warriors

Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors on Friday is sure to be a very intense contest, and for all intents and purposes, it could virtually decide the victor of this series.

The Lakers held a 3-1 lead going into Wednesday’s Game 5, but they lost by 15 points and simply got outworked. They played hard enough, at least for a portion of the game, but Golden State played with a sense of desperation, which is simply a higher wavelength of energy.

Now Los Angeles has put itself in a bit of a bind. It will have its home crowd at Crypto.com Arena behind it for Game 6, but if it doesn’t take care of business, it’s hard to imagine LeBron James and company taking Game 7 in San Francisco, especially with what is expected to be less than a 40-hour turnaround.

If the Lakers take care of these three things on Friday, they will likely head to the Western Conference Finals to face the Denver Nuggets with three full days of rest before Game 1 of that series.

Outrebound the Warriors

At this point of a playoff series, games are often decided by the effort categories, and rebounding may be the most important of those categories.

In the Lakers’ three wins in this series, they had a scant advantage on the boards, but in Golden State’s Game 2 victory, it outrebounded them by 15, and on Wednesday the margin was 10 in favor of Stephen Curry and company.

Rebounding is a measure of effort and desire, and the Lakers will have to outwork the defending champs in order to close out this series.

Anthony Davis must dominate — on both ends of the floor

In each of the last three games, Davis has scored at least 23 points while shooting over 55 percent from the field, but in Game 5 he had no blocked shots or steals while grabbing “only” nine rebounds.

For reference, he is averaging 13.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks a game through 11 playoff games. Los Angeles needs him to get back into the teens in the rebounding category and turn the basket area into a no-fly zone in Game 6.

But for that to happen, the team needs to figure out how to keep him in or near the paint defensively. The Warriors have been involving him in pick and rolls since Game 4, and it has opened up the lane for easy layups and dunks, as this strategy has left Davis too far out on the perimeter to rotate back toward the hoop.

The Lakers may not need a 30-plus-point game from him, but they do need one of his usual monster games defensively and on the boards in order to win.

Get off to a good start

Conventional wisdom holds that on the road, great teams are content with keeping things close if need be until they can find an advantage and take control later in a ballgame. But at home, teams need to punch their opponent in the mouth as early as possible, figuratively speaking.

Just as they did in the Game 6 clincher versus the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers need to jump on the Warriors early and establish a sizable lead. If they allow Golden State to keep things close or even get a lead of their own, the tension will thicken for LeBron James’ crew, and that anxious energy will extend to the fans in the stands.

But if L.A. opens up a lead of at least five to eight points by the third quarter, the Warriors will be the ones feeling nervous, as their season and possibly their entire dynasty will be hanging in the balance.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire

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