OKC Thunder (53-26, 23-16 road) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (55-24, 29-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 111.0 (6th), Lakers– 111.0 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 107.0 (15th), Lakers – 104.6 (6th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.6 (13th), Lakers – 90.6 (21st)
View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold
This game is important, but not for the reason you’re thinking. Yes, Oklahoma City is trying to catch the Mavs so every game matters, but beating the Lakers in Los Angeles — something the Thunder have yet to do — would be such a huge confidence booster.
Especially since this is our first look of OKC’s new and improved front line versus the Lakers. We’ve all talked a lot about playoff seeding and pairings so maybe those fears could be put at ease a bit if OKC plays well. I don’t think a win is necessarily necessary. I just think the Thunder needs to prove, mainly to themselves, that they CAN win there. Other than Game 2 and one regular season game last year, the Thunder’s always been a bit overmatched. Maybe the game was under 10, but it never truly felt like OKC had a shot to win.
Lakers coming in: See, this is what scares me most: The Lakers have dropped four straight after their big streak. They have a chance here late in the season to sort themselves out and get back on track against a good team heading into the playoffs. They might not have much to play for in terms of seeding, but in terms of statement, it’s there.
We’re all curious how the Bash Brothers will fare inside. Kendrick Perkins defends Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol as well as anyone. He knows them well and knows how to play them. So it comes to Serge Ibaka and how he plays tonight. If he’s able to shake loose and roam the lane sealing off penetration while also keeping Gasol limited, OKC has a very good chance.
Thabo fancies himself as a Kobe stopper, but James Harden has done excellent work on Bryant the last few meetings. Plus, playing Harden has a huge advantage. The Lakers like to put Kobe on Russell Westbrook which means Derek Fisher checks the other guard. If it’s Harden, OKC has a major mismatch in its favor. If it’s Thabo, it’s a push on both ends essentially.
Ron Artest has always done outstanding work on Kevin Durant, especially in limiting KD’s movement off the ball. Artest just pesters every movement of Durant and doesn’t let him go anywhere cleanly. If OKC is to win though, Durant has to play well.
This should be a fun one. Gasol finally responded to Perk’s comment of calling him soft yesterday and even mentioned that there may some fireworks today as well. This game is going to be physical. It’s going to be nasty. And it’s going to be fun.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Go Perk.
Also, I joined ESPN LA 710 to talk to Brian and Andy Kamenetzky about today’s game. So give that a listen if you’d like.