LA Lakers (53-18, 21-13 road) vs. Ok. City Thunder (43-27, 23-12 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.4 (15th), Lakers – 109.2 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.7 (7th), Lakers – 102.7 (4th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (14th), Lakers – 93.3 (11th)
View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold
There’s potential this is a first round preview. There’s potential, that these two teams will meet again soon. And while Oklahoma City is 0-3 against the Lakers, two of those games were down-to-the-wire competitive and were early indicators this Thunder team was kind of for real. So in my best estimation, with getting the anxiety out of their system Wednesday against the Rockets, I’d say the Thunder is due for a win against the Lake Show.
It just feels like it’s time. The Thunder’s been so close so many times. If KD’s deep 3 had dropped, the Thunder might’ve done it back in November. If KD hadn’t fouled out in LA in December, it might’ve been different. And with an amped up Ford Center, a young team that craves a win over the defending champs all combined with the whole playoff race, it just seems like this is the night OKC makes a statement against the Lakers. I might be wrong, but I feel it.
Los Angeles coming in: The Lakers are the hottest team in the league, having won seven straight. They’re in the middle of a five-game road trip and last played Wednesday in San Antonio. They’re 21-13 away from Staples.
Two marquee, intriguing matchups to watch tonight: Thabo vs. Kobe and Kevin Durant vs. Ron Artest. The game will probably be decided in who gets the best of these two head-to-heads. Artest defends Durant really well, using his strength to bully KD. But it’s not like KD can’t score against him. Durant is averaging 25.6 ppg against LA. As for the other, we all remember when Thabo put his face on the defensive map with his stellar performance against Kobe back in November. I also remember this play very well. But it’ll take another great performance from Thabo tonight for OKC to hang tough.
What helps the Thunder is the absence of Andrew Bynum. Inside, the Lakers have a big advantage with Pau Gasol and Bynum. But no Bynum means Lamar Odom moves back to the starting power forward position. Now Odom has abused Jeff Green before on the glass, but Green is more aggressive and a little stronger now. Plus the emergence of Serge Ibaka will certainly help the Thunder combat the Lakers inside.
Russell Westbrook should get back on track with Derek Fisher checking him. So that’s good. But bench play will be very key. If James Harden can give another punch off the pine like he did against Houston, I like OKC’s chances. The Lakers don’t have a great bench with Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Josh Powell, but it’s serviceable. The Thunder needs to take advantage of a better bench and get major production.
This game isn’t must-win or isn’t even one I’ll be disappointed in a loss. You’re playing the Lakers and they’re the second best team in basketball. There’s no shame losing to them. But it’s time. It’s time to beat them and if OKC does see them in the first round, it’d be nice to have the mental weight lifted and a little momentum going into it.
Tip at 7:00 CDT. Go Let’s Go.