Los Angeles Lakers (46-10, 20-6 road) vs. Thunder (13-43, 10-19 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Time: 7:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.7 (27th), Lakers: 114.2 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 110.3 (24rd), Lakers: 105.5 (7th)
Pace: Thunder: 94.0 (7th), Lakers: 94.7 (5th)
The Lakers are the league’s best team. There’s no doubt in my mind (or many other’s for that matter). And the Thunder are record-wise, one of the three worst. The Lakers have won 15 of 17 and OKC has lost eight of its last 10. The teams are sort of headed in opposite directions currently. But you know what? For some reason, I’m feeling a big Thunder win.
1) They’re hungry. The Thunder have been playing so much better in 2009 but not many outside of this state seem to notice. They want respect and they think they could earn a little tonight. And you see it all the time in sports with long seasons – one team comes out unfocused and flat, going through the motions and expecting to win while the other comes out with fire because it has something to prove. I’m banking on this.
2) They’re due. OKC’s lost five in a row and is 2-7 in February after a strong January. In 2009, the longest losing streak the team has had prior to now was two games. There’s been some tough losses and for the most part, the Thunder’s been competitive. But competitive doesn’t break losing streaks.
3) They’ve got confidence. OKC played the Lakers tough in Los Angeles two weeks ago. At not point did the Lakers seem to totally overpower OKC and “turn it on” and blow the Thunder out. While L.A. was clearly the superior team, OKC never went away. They know they can play with these guys and with the backing of a rapid home crowd, it might very well be enough to push over the top.
More than likely it’s total wishful thinking and OKC will do what OKC does and play tough for 44-46 minutes, hanging around but never having the firepower or defensive ability to close it out. That’s what will likely happen. That’s your safe bet. But I feel a little wild (I got my hair cut today in fact and I even let the lady put gel in it at the end) and I just feel like this team sensed the moment against New Orleans last week and nearly rose to the occasion and I can see the same thing happening tonight. Again, I should probably check into Arkham, but remember, hair cut.
But if there was ever a game to really need Tyson Chandler, here it is (I promise I’ll stop mentioning him in every post soon. One more week. That’s all I ask). In L.A. two weeks ago, Pau Gasol was an impossible matchup for Nick Collison and Lamar Odom absolutely abused the Thunder on the glass. The Lakers outboarded OKC by 10 (56-46) and abused the Thunder on the offensive glass. Jeff Green did hit the boards pretty good against GSW with 15 rebounds, but this isn’t Corey Maggette and Anthony Randolph. This is one of the best rebounding teams in the league.
The last meeting the Laker bench had 31 points and saw production from five players. Jordan Farmer is a solid point that hit threes, Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza are instant offense off the pine and Ariza is a solid defender that can match KD. So there’s a lot of tough matchups for the Thunder.
How-eva, Kevin Durant is an impossible matchup for Luke Waltson. KD scored 31 in L.A. while having an off shooting night and tonight he could go for that many or more. Russell Westbrook will be a handful for Derek Fisher (Westbrook had 17-9-7 the first meeting). Obviously Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant, but Kyle Weaver has got one game against him under his belt and knows what to prepare for this time. Add in the fact Thabo Sefolosha will be there to give much needed help on Bryant and the Thunder’s a little better equipped this time around. Jeff Green can stretch Odom a bit, but Lamar Odom is a tough assignment on both ends for Green.
While the Lakers have been ridiculous lately with Gasol, Kobe and Odom all having at least 25 points against Minny Sunday night. The Lakers are probably the deepest team in the league with some of the most talented players. There’s really not a lot of reason to think OKC can win this one other than the Ford Factor. The Thunder’s going to have to nail all 10 things I wrote about in the last Laker pre-game, which is no easy task (they got seven of them last time and still lost by seven). But what the heck, it doesn’t matter if I’m wrong anyway so I’m sticking strong – the Thunder wins a big one tonight against the Lakers.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go City.