The (53-18) Los Angeles Lakers are on the second stop of their five-game road trip to face the playoff-bound (43-27) Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Lakers beat the Spurs on Wednesday and in the process sent out a dual message; they showed the Lakers Nation that the team is ready and willing to defend their title, and the rest of the NBA; ‘remember us — the defending NBA Champion’.
The second half of the Spurs game showed the Lakers potential when motivated. The Purple and Gold completely shutdown the rival Spurs, a solid playoff team, and holding them to a total of 35 points. As impressive as the nine point road win was in all actuality, it could have been a 16-point blowout had the Lakers made all of their free throws.
The scary thing is that the Lakers are a team that is improving, building momentum, and fine tuning their game for the post season. Their scoring output hasn’t been in question, but the consistency of their defense has been.
A defense led by Ron Artest, re-introducing himself to the league as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He is altering the scoring of so many star players in the league that if you google search ‘locking up people defensively’ a story about Ron-Ron will appear.
His stellar defense will be on display tonight in an excellent individual match up with Thunder small forward Kevin Durant. The Lakers are 3-0 against the young and talented Thunder team this season and Kevin Durant was held under his season average in the last meeting, but they must be swept. The best scenario for the Lakers will see the team play solid defensively; have Kobe Bryant start the game as a facilitator and finish it in closer mode.
The Lakers are looking to extend their seven-game winning streak; both teams have won seven of their last 10 games. The Oklahoma City Thunder has a talented young nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and 1st round draft pick James Harden and happens to be one the leagues top defensive teams allowing 97 points per game.
The Lakers need to make defense their calling card, get back in transition an force Oklahoma City to execute a half court offense. The Lakers need to start the game playing aggressive and with a sense of urgency.
Establish Pau Gasol in the painted area, be patient and run their offense through him. The Lakers front line needs to remain aggressive on both ends of the court. They need to and not let the Thunder get out in transition. This game will be competitive, but the Lakers experience and execution down the stretch will be the difference.
Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST
- Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
- Oklahoma City: FS Oklahoma (Brian Davis & Grant Long)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Oklahoma City: 640 AM & 98.1 FM (Matt Pinto)
- Andrew Bynum (Left Achilles Strain) Out
- Kobe Bryant ( Avulsion fracture of his right index finger, Sprained Left Ankle)
- Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb) listed Day-to-Day
- Ron Artest (Sprained Left Thumb) listed Day-to-Day
- Lamar Odom (Sprained Shoulder) listed Day-to-Day
- Luke Walton (Pinched Nerve, Back) Out, but did practice with the team
- PG Russell Westbrook (Stomach Virus) Will Play