Lakers (10-11, 4-5 road) vs. Thunder (17-4, 10-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.7 (7th), Lakers – 104.3 (17th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.2 (5th), Lakers – 106.5 (23rd)
Pace: Thunder – 96.7 (4th), Lakers – 97.2 (3rd)
Any time the Lakers visit, it feels special. Even though they’re really only the Lakers in name right now. Kobe Bryant’s back, but he’s far from back. They don’t have a healthy point guard available on the roster. And while they’ve been entertaining playing Mike D’Antoni’s preferred style, there’s not a lot of talent or depth. But still! The Lakers in Oklahoma City!
And honestly, it’s probably a good thing the name on the front of that jersey still means something. Because otherwise, this one would be an easy game to fall asleep on. The Lakers’ current situation isn’t good. With Kobe likely to start on Russell Westbrook, there’s a chance Westbrook could challenge Kobe’s 81. And then, they don’t have anyone capable of guarding Kevin Durant.
Where the Lakers may be able to keep things close is if one of their bit players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry or Wesley Johnson finds a scoring tough, because otherwise, how can they keep pace with OKC? The Lakers have a few guys that can score periodically, but consistently? Eh.
Can’t take anything for granted though, especially when Kobe is on the other side. He’s obviously still not anywhere close to being back, but he’s going to have a game at some point that grabs everyone’s attention. Seems like tonight against the best team in the West on national TV would be a pretty good one for it.
Lakers coming in: Lost to the Suns on Tuesday
Three Big Things
1. Pace. The Lakers like to play fast, but I don’t think they want to be in a running game with the Thunder. Because without much depth and Kobe being limited still, the Thunder might be able to just run the Lakers to death. OKC’s always done extremely well in transition against the Lakers, mainly because they don’t have anyone to slow down Westbrook. The Thunder need to be on the attack, and set a tone in the first four minutes.
2. Pau. Serge Ibaka has played Pau Gasol pretty well in the past, and really, limit Gasol and you probably win the game. He’s the Lakers’ best offensive weapon because of his passing and ability in the pick-and-roll. The Thunder have a lot of bodies to throw at him, even possibly Durant in a smallball group. Stop Pau and you stop the Lakers.
3. Injuries. Steven Adams and Thabo Sefolosha are both gametime decisions. And not to hope for Thabo to be unhealthy, but tonight would certainly be some great experience for Andre Roberson in getting a look at defending Kobe. Adams needs to be healthy because if not, Hasheem Thabeet might play.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Crushem.