OAKLAND -- The Warriors are now set for the biggest game of the season thus far. The Los Angeles Lakers are coming to town.
But before the showdown Saturday night, the Warriors had to handle business against the Charlotte Bobcats. They did.
Despite struggles putting away bad teams this season, Golden State handed Charlotte its 14th straight loss, 115-100 Friday night at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors got a triple-double from forward David Lee and another sharpshooting performance from point guard Stephen Curry to rebound from Wednesday's disappointing loss at Sacramento.
"The Bobcats game matters the same in the standings," Lee said after totaling 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. "All of these games matter. Now that this game's over, we're pumped to have the challenge (Saturday) night, having (the Lakers) come in here.
"No matter who plays for them, we're really, really excited. We know its going to be a good challenge for us, but we're ready to defend our home court."
The Warriors are now 7-1 after a loss and have won seven of their last eight at Oracle. But Saturday's highly anticipated affair, at least among Golden State fans, carries added importance. Not only is it against the Warriors' longtime bully, but it's also the first in 11 straight games against teams expected to contend for a playoff spot: the Lakers, Utah, Philadelphia, Boston, the Clippers (twice), Memphis, Portland, Denver, Miami and San Antonio.
Golden State (18-9) has compiled the fifth-best record in the Western Conference heading into this daunting stretch, making these games that much more meaningful.
The last meaningful home game against the Lakers was December 2007. The Warriors were off to a 13-8 start a year after the We Believe playoff run. The Lakers were 13-9. Golden State prevailed 108-106.
It's been 18 years since the Warriors and Lakers have faced off with the Warriors owning the better record. The last time: April 23, 1994. The Lakers came to town riding out a losing season at 33-47. Golden State was 49-31 and on its way to getting swept by Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. The Warriors won 126-91.
Friday, Golden State's defense dominated, holding Charlotte to 36.7 percent shooting -- a season-low for a Warriors opponent. The offense did the rest.
"We're awfully tough when we play at our pace," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "When we push the basketball, set screens, we're going to get open looks. ... No matter how much you scout, no matter how much you pay attention to it, you're going to have to give up something against this team -- especially when we're clicking on all cylinders."
The Warriors were in control all evening. They led by as much as 18 before taking an 89-76 lead into the fourth quarter. Golden State still led by 13 midway through the fourth quarter. A dunk by Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo cut the Warriors' lead to 11.
But before fans could get nervous -- given that the Warriors have struggled putting away bad teams all season -- Golden State went on a run. Lee dropped in a jumper. Then Curry, who had 27 points and a career-high eight 3-pointers, knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and set up a dunk for Carl Landry.
The 10-0 run pushed the Warriors' lead to 113-92 with just under four minutes left and put the game on ice. And all attention pointed to the Lakers and a schedule that will now get brutal.
"He's been great all year," Jackson said. "You can pencil in 20 and 10, and then sprinkle in some stuff around the tree. He's been that good all year long.
"I've got two guys that have been playing at an All-Star level that should be in the All-Star game should things continue the way they are. David Lee was spectacular. Steph was again spectacular. Those are my leaders, and they are doing a good job setting the tone."
In his first 11 games in December, Lee averaged 23.2 points on 59.6 percent shooting with 11.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
It's early, but the only Warriors to average 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in a season were Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond, Neil Johnston and Jerry Lucas. Lee is on that pace.
Lee will have some stiff competition for a spot among the frontcourt reserves. The safe presumption is that Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard will be voted in as starters by the fans.
The coaches, who choose the reserves, will likely choose three to five more big men. Tim Duncan, a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer who seems to be resurging for the Spurs, figures to be a lock. Memphis, one of the better teams in the NBA thus far, figures to get at least two of its three frontcourt players in: Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
That leaves Lee vying with several players for one or two frontcourt spots: Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota's Kevin Love. And you certainly can't count out the Lakers' Pau Gasol if he goes on a tear between now and the end of January.
While his percentage from the field hasn't recovered from his struggling start, his 3-point shooting has really picked up. For the month of December, heading into Friday's game, he'd made 43 of 88 attempts (48.8 percent).
L.A. Lakers (12-14) at Warriors (18-9), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA