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Lakers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Lakers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Thunder (17-9, 12-3 home) vs. Lakers (4-22, 2-15 road)

TV: FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 4:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.7 (2nd), Lakers – 97.5 (29th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 99.9 (11th), Lakers – 108.3 (29th)

If the San Antonio Spurs were the foundation from which the Oklahoma City Thunder front office wanted to model their team after, then the Los Angeles Lakers were the company they wanted to emulate to reach a higher level of success. It isn’t noticeable now, with the Lakers transitioning to a rebuilding state, but 6 years ago, the Lakers were the first rung the Thunder needed to climb in order to start the level of success they’ve been on since then.

I’ve always said that Kobe Bryant was like a distant big brother to the Thunder. There’s something to be said about big brothers. I never had one growing up, and, honestly, most of the people I associated with while growing up were the oldest children in their families. But in the examples I did see, big brothers played a huge role in shaping and molding the character of their younger siblings. Shaping them to hopefully be something better than what they were.

Big brothers serve two purposes in life: to frustrate and to motivate. The frustration part comes from the big brother’s ability to dominate over the little brother due to being older, bigger, and wiser. The motivation part comes from the little brother wanting to be better than the big brother. The thing about this big brother/little brother dynamic is that the little brother is able to take notes on how to best his big brother, while the big brother rarely garners any motivation from defeating a younger sibling. The motivation to take the crown is usually stronger than the motivation to keep it.

Eventually, the Thunder jumped the hurdle that was the Lakers on their way to a couple seasons of Western Conference dominance. When Bryant announced he was going to retire at the end of the season, it kind of brought everything back full circle. The Thunder are once again trying to get back to being one of the elite teams in the league and role of Kobe Bryant is now being played by Stephen Curry. Hopefully, the Thunder will be able to climb the Warriors’ rung quicker than they did the Lakers’ rung.

This is the first of four meetings between the Thunder and Lakers. The Thunder swept the season series last year, 3-0, with each meeting being surprisingly competitive.

The Opponent

The Lakers come into the game with a 4-22 record. They are one of the worst teams in the league, on par with the Philadelphia 76ers. The front office has constructed a roster that is preparing for life after Kobe. They’ve started stocking up on young, talented players (Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell), and veterans on short term deals (Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, and Brandon Bass). This team is preparing for future seasons by being purposely bad this season, because their first round pick in the next draft goes to the 76ers if it falls out of the top three.

In the meantime, Kobe has come into his swan song season with the mentality of an infantryman: shoot, shoot, shoot. He may not hit many targets, but by golly, he’s going to continue shooting. The young players are developing at a good pace. Clarkson has gotten a little better as a combo guard. After looking like a bust, Russell has put together a good string of games. Randle looks more and more like a much more athletic version of Zach Randolph. And Larry Nance Jr. has found a niche as an energy guy off the bench.

3 Big Things

1.Trap Game

The Lakers will treat this like a Finals game. If the Thunder come out lackadaisical, they could be in for a rude awakening.

2. Turnovers

Young players feast on turnovers. Limit them, and you take some of the Lakers offensive firepower away.

3. Win

C’mon, it’s the Lakers. They are terrible. Just win the game.

Slump-Buster (opposing player most likely to break out of a slump):

Kobe Bryant is going off for 40 tonight. Mark it down.