OKC Thunder (46-17, 21-11 road) at Los Angeles Lakers (40-24, 25-7 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (2nd), Lakers– 106.1 (11th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.9 (9th), Lakers – 104.3 (13th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (6th), Lakers – 90.5 (20th)
View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold
There are multiple storylines to focus on in today’s Thunder-Lakers matchup. The scoring race. The fact this game is on national TV so it’s a last chance for KD to make an MVP statement. The Lakers are clinging to third while OKC is trying to catch the Spurs for No. 1. That the Thunder could sweep the season series against the Lakers.
Here’s something though: With an eye towards matchups, if you’re of the belief the Thunder match up better with the Lakers than Clippers, it might be in OKC’s favor to drop this game today. The Clippers are nipping at the Lakers heels and a win for the Lake Show would greatly help them hang on to third. I’m not of that mindset because I think it’s more important to win your games now and then worry about beating whoever you play later. Trying to tank for a matchup is silly to me, because if you want to win an NBA title, you’re going to have to beat good teams you might not match up favorably anyway. It’s better to be playing good basketball and feeling good about yourselves heading to the playoffs.
The Lakers coming in: The Lakers last played Friday getting worked by San Antonio.
Three Big Things
1. Scoring title. Both Kobe and KD have said they don’t care about the scoring title, but let’s be honest here, they both would like to win it. I don’t think it will factor in to how either plays the game today, but it certainly will be something we’re all paying attention to. Assuming Kobe hits his average of 28 points, KD would need 35 to take over the lead. How do you like that?
2. Inside. The Thunder have done an outstanding job defending Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the first two meetings. Perk and Ibaka have been fantastic protecting the paint and making the Lakers rely on jumpers from Kobe. Here’s something: With Ibaka on the floor, the Lakers offensive efficiency is 86.7. Without him, 108.6.
3. Kobe. He’s gone 14-49 in the first two games. I don’t think that’s an accident or two off nights. Both Thabo and James Harden do an outstanding job of crowding Kobe so that every jumper is extremely contested and often off balance. He’s Kobe and so there’s always the chance he hits a few and heats up and starts hitting jumpers there’s no defense for, but so far, the Thunder have figured it out.
Tip at 2:30 CT. Go Sweep.