The (41-18) Los Angeles Lakers are on the road for the 61st game of the season facing the (36-21) Oklahoma City Thunder. It is the first time in Oklahoma City for the Lakers since the Pau Gasol tip-in basket ended Game Six and the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
The Thunder traded for two veteran big men, Kendrick Perkins, Nazr Mohammed and Nate Robinson. This move adds veteran toughness, inside presence, playoff experience, bulk, and a defensive mindset needed as an accompaniment to the athleticism and scoring ability of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Although it may appear today that the Thunder has received damaged goods, when healthy Kendrick Perkins is one of the best low-post defenders in the game. This has the potential to be a solid move for the future of the Thunder.
The good news is that the Lakers are playing the Thunder before the new additions are fully acclimated to their system. The Lakers and Thunder are both leading their divisions. The Lakers appear rejuvenated winners of three straight since the All-Star break, two by double digits. The Thunder are seeking to avoid a three game losing streak.
The Lakers need to continue to execute the game plan of playing as a team, solid defense, moving the basketball. Their guards have to stay in front of Russell Westbrook and force him to be a jump shooter with a hand in his face. They have to control the tempo of the game, get back in transition, shut down the screen and roll plays, rebound, dominate the painted area and rotate out to open shooters.
The Thunder will miss the activity and production of Jeff Green. He stabilized their bench and provided their second unit with a scoring threat. That means two things one, James Harden’s production will have to increase, two, the Lakers have to win the battle of the benches.
The Lakers beat the Thunder 101-94 on 1/17. Oklahoma City has lost consecutive games to the Spurs and the Magic. They need to establish both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the post and provide them with enough touches to dominate. Their front line of Bynum, Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom needs to be aggressive on both ends of the court. Their front line should be able to post 50+ points 25+ rebounds.
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, R. Artest, P. Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, N. Collison, S. Ibaka
Tip-off: 11:30 AM
- Los Angeles: ABC
- Oklahoma City: ABC
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Oklahoma City: 640 AM & 98.1 FM (Matt Pinto)
- Matt Barnes (Right Knee) Out
- Theo Ratliff (Left Knee) Out
- C Kendrick Perkins (Knee Injury) Out