Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America
Kobe Bryant | Kevin Durant
Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

December 13, 2013 — 5:00 PM (PST)
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
TV: TWC SportsNet / ESPN / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (10-11) make their first stop in their four-game, five-day road trip against Oklahoma City Thunder (16-4) after another very disappointing loss vs. Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Lakers come into tonight’s game with major issues. According to LA Times Bill Plaschke, the tension between C Pau Gasol and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni leaked into the public yesterday after they both made very critical comments against each other to Plaschke. Furthermore, the Lakers are without a Point Guard for tonight’s game. Lakers starting PG Steve Blake is now out 6 weeks due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, joining PG Steve Nash and PG Jordan Farmar on the injury list.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been breezing through their schedule so far this season, going 11-1 their last 12 games. The Thunder are led by the 1-2 punch of PG Russell Westbrook and SF Kevin Durant. Westbrook has recovered well from a meniscus tear in his right knee, averaging 21.9 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 4.9 RPG . Meanwhile, Durant has had another typical superstar season, average a NBA leading 28.4 PPG and 8.4 RPG. The speed and athleticism of Westbrook and the length of Durant will cause a tremendous amount of problems tonight for the Lakers, who don’t have any ideal players to guard these 2 superstars. In fact, Bryant, who still tries to return to game shape, will now have to match up vs. Westbrook at the point, according to coach Mike D’Antoni, due to the depleted guard situation for the Lakers. Durant and Westbrook look to lead their team not only to tonight’s win, but to make another run at an NBA championship together.

As a result of Blake’s recent injury, Mike D’Antoni has now inserted G/F Wesley Johnson starting lineup, while F Jordan Hill replaces F Shawne Williams in the starting lineup. Johnson will guard Durant tonight and he looks to use his own athleticism and quickness to keep Durant away from the basket and force him to settle for contested jump shots.

Projected Starters

PG – Russell Westbrook Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Even]

SG – Thabo Sefelosha / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]

SF – Kevin Durant / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Thunder]

PF – Serge Ibaka / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Thunder]

C – Kendrick Perkins / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Thunder: G Reggie Jackson, F/C Nick Collison, G Jeremy Lamb

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams

How Lakers Can Win

  1. 3-point Shooting: The Lakers have to spread the floor tonight and shoot a lot of threes to have any shot at marginalizing the superior talent of the Thunder. With a lack of a point guard for the Lakers tonight. The Lakers are currently 4th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at a very high 39.7%. The Lakers have defeated great teams like Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers by making a lot of shots from behind the arc.
  2. Bench Play: The Lakers have a clear advantage in one aspect vs. Thunder: the bench. For the Lakers to have any shot at winning tonight, they would have to depend on the bench players to have another productive night. Leading the NBA in bench scoring at 47.8 PPG, the bench has won the majority of the games this season. The bench is lead by G/F Nick Young, who is 2nd in scoring for the Lakers at 14.3 PPG.
  3. Kobe Bryant’s Passing: When the Lakers had their one win vs. Thunder last season, Kobe Bryant chose to create shots not for himself, but his teammates, catching the Thunder very off guard. Bryant dished out 14 assists and only shot 12 times to dissect the Thunder defense that clearly focused on Kobe. Unfortunately, the Thunder will not have to have all 5 of their players on the floor focus on Bryant since he still tries to regain his superior conditioning after returning from a torn achilles.

Bottom Line

Let’s face it Laker Nation, the Lakers will need a miracle to defeat the Thunder tonight. The Thunder will try to turn this game into another track meet, similar to what the Suns did vs. the Lakers last game, forcing the Lakers to play catch-up for the entire game and run them out of the gym.

Prediction

Thunder: 114-92