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Warriors coach Mark Jackson isn't adverse from showing respect where it's due, but is certainly not one to be intimiated.
Despite an 0-6 record as a coach against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson made it clear he expects that drought to end Monday night at Oracle Arena.
Asked Saturday what kind of effort it will take to beat the Lakers, Jackson smiled, let out a brief laugh and said: "The Wizards just beat them (Friday) night. We are a very good team, playing in our building."
Whether that includes Stephen Curry remains to be seen. The Warriors' leading scorer left Saturday's win against Washington with 6:03 remaning due to a sprained right ankle and didn't return. Postgame x-rays came back negative and Curry was optimistic he'd be ready for the Lakers.
"We know the Lakers are coming in and they’re right behind us and need that game," Curry said. "I’m going to try as best as I can to make sure I’m ready.”
With 11 games left, Golden State (40-31) has a half-game game lead over Houston for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings, while the Lakers (36-34) sit 3 1/2 games back at No. 8. Los Angeles has dropped two straight with a four-game road trip in front of it and has a two-game lead over Utah (34-36) and Dallas (34-36).
"It's going to be a great challenge and obviously they have an all-time great in Kobe Bryant," Jackson said. "I'm sure they'll be here trying to fight for their playoff lives."
Bryant, the league's third-leading scorer (27.0 ppg), returned to the lineup Friday after missing two full games and most of a third with a sprained ankle. He finished with 21 points and 11 assists in 38 minutes.
Los Angeles also welcomed back Pau Gasol against Washington after he missed 20 games with a foot injury. Gasol was limited to four points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes, which didn't provide much insight for Jackson into what his role will be moving forward.
"I'm not sure," Jackson said. "We'll find out how he's used, but he's definitely a big-time player."
The Lakers aren't lacking in big-time players with those two, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash, but it hasn't resulted in the sucess anticipated before the season. The team is 0-6 when those five make up the starting lineup.
In years past, the Warriors wouldn't have had an answer for what Howard presents, but as center Andrew Bogut continues to round into form, that has changed.
"He’s still not there but his body is a lot livelier, he’s rebounding, he’s protecting the rim," Jackson said. "Early on you could tell he wasn’t comfortable catching the ball on the block. He wasn’t comfortable making moves, but he is now."
Bogut knows the honus will be on him to limit Howard's impact, especially on the boards.
"Thankfully we're both not 100 percent at the moment," Bogut said, "which is good because if he was 100 and I was how I am right now, it'd be an even tougher matchup."
Los Angeles has taken 18 of 19 from Golden State, with the Warriors last win a 95-87 victory on April 6, 2011.