Time: 9:30 PM CST
TV: ESPN / FSOK
The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-13) are in Los Angeles for a nationally-televised tilt with the Lakers (21-16) tonight at the Staples Center. Although the game features Paul George’s first match-up with the Lakers since declining to return home as a free agent, the contest has lost a bit of its allure due to LeBron James and his injured groin. King James is listed as “out” in the game notes, setting up a battle between the Thunder and a young Lakers roster that has gone 1-2 since LeBron went down on Christmas Day against the Warriors.
Tip-off is at 9:30 PM CST and will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 5.5-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Alex Abrines: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- LeBron James: Out — Groin
- Rajon Rondo: Out — Hand
Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee
|Team||EFG||FTA%||TO%||OREB%||OP EFG||OP FTA||OP TO||OP OREB|
What to Watch For
Is This Your King? Without LeBron’s 27.3 PPG tonight, Kyle Kuzma comes in as the leading scorer for the Lakers — posting 18.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He’s averaged 25 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 5 APG in the three games LeBron has missed thus far. He’s logged 40+ minutes in each of those games and figures to spearhead L.A.’s attack tonight against the Thunder.
PG Goes Home. Paul George is making his first trip home to face the Lakers since re-signing with the Thunder last summer — making it a safe bet to assume he’ll be met with a chorus of boos tonight at Staples Center. The hometown hero-turned-foe declined to even meet with Lakers brass ahead of re-upping alongside Russell Westbrook in OKC. He’s having a career-season thus far, averaging 26.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals per game.
New Year, New Russ? Westbrook put an exclamation point on 2018 with a 32-11-11 triple-double in the New Year’s Eve victory over Dallas. Though his struggles in the 2018-19 season are well-chronicled at this point, he’s averaging 25 points, 10.4 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and three steals per game over the Thunder’s last five contests — shooting 43.9 percent from the field in the process. Look for him to come out aggressive in his match-up with Lonzo Ball, as the Thunder point guard has taken 20+ field goals in each of the last four games and will likely want to put on a show in his hometown return, as well.
Must Be The Shoes. Another reason Westbrook is likely to come out aggressive? He’s debuting his new Jordan Why Not Zer0.2 sneaker tonight in LA:
Alex Abrines. Per Brett Dawson of The Athletic, Alex Abrines is unavailable yet again this evening — missing his fourth straight game. His first two absences were due to illness, but the reasoning has been “personal” ever since. Not sure what’s going on with Abrines at this point, though Abdel Nader figures to see extended run once more. The 25-year-old is averaging 10.3 points over the last three games, shooting 50 percent from the floor in the process.
Winning When You Should Win. Facing a Lakers team without LeBron James is the sort of trap last season’s Thunder would fall into — but this one should go OKC’s way if they take care of business. Kuzma, Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart are more than capable of defending home court if the Thunder aren’t sharp. A complete performance like Monday’s win over Dallas would likely yield positive results.