OKC Thunder (27-8, 9-5 road) at Los Angeles Lakers (15-20, 10-8 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 113.2 (1st), Lakers– 108.6 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (8th), Lakers – 107.0 (22nd)
Pace: Thunder – 92.3 (9th), Lakers – 94.8 (3rd)
View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold
At some point, the Lakers are going to win that game that makes everyone start asking if they’ve figured it out, if they’ve turned a corner, if they’re on the right track. What better a game than against the team that eliminated them last season and is defending their Western Conference crown?
I know, I know: I felt this way last time the Thunder and Lakers played, and I was wrong. It’s just that this is the Lakers, and it’s hard for me to get my mind around the fact that something isn’t going their way. National TV game, Friday night in Staples — it’s all set up, right?
Or maybe it’s the other way. Maybe it’s set up for the Thunder to bury the Lakers. National TV, Friday night in Staples and a superior Thunder team rolling in with a death certificate in hand. Games like these the Thunder tend to bring their best, and if they do, the Lakers just aren’t good enough to keep pace.
Lakers coming in: They’ve lost five straight and last played Wednesday, losing to the Spurs.
Three Big Things
1. Hurting Lakers. No Dwight Howard, no Pau Gasol. That means Mike D’Antoni will be forced to mix and match, with Earl Clark likely seeing a featured role. Clark has been a mild revelation so far for the Lakers and fits in nicely as a stretch 4 for D’Antoni. That could give Serge Ibaka some problems, but Scott Brooks always has the smallball matchup option in his pocket, and the Lakers just don’t have the horses to defend that.
2. Kobe. As long as he’s playing, the Lakers have a fighting chance. He continues to make impossible shots possible, hitting ridiculous looks that at least keep the Lakers close.
3. No mercy. I just said it, but the Thunder are obviously better than the Lakers, especially with Howard and Gasol sitting. There’s really no great reason for OKC to fall unless the Thunder don’t show up, or the Lakers play their most inspired game of the season.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Beat LA.