Time: 8:30 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (26-17) return to action tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, taking on the Los Angeles Lakers (24-21) in the second matchup between the teams this season. The Thunder beat the LeBron James-less Lakers by a final score of 107-100 on January 2, but have stumbled to a 2-4 record since then. Los Angeles has fallen to ninth in the Western Conference after going 4-7 in the 11 games without LeBron. Important game for both teams tonight in OKC.
Tip-off is at 8:30 PM CST and will be nationally-televised on TNT. The Thunder are 10-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Nerlens Noel: ACTIVE — Concussion
- Alex Abrines: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- LeBron James: Out — Groin
- Rajon Rondo: Out — Finger
Lakers: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Tyson Chandler
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What to Watch For
We Don’t Need You. Paul George lit up the Lakers on January 2, dropping 37 points on 15-of-29 shooting in front of a hostile crowd at Staples Center. George is shooting just 37.3 percent over the Thunder’s last five games and could stand to break out against the team he was heavily courted by prior to re-signing in OKC last summer.
Better Russell. Russell Westbrook has slowly been rounding into form lately, averaging 25.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 14.2 assists over the Thunder’s last five. He struggled mightily against the Lakers on January 2, hitting 3-of-20 from the field and 1-of-7 from long range. The Thunder haven’t been playing well enough lately to survive another outing like that one. He’ll need to be better against his hometown team this time around.
Hemorrhaging Points. The Thunder defense is surrendering 136 PPG in the three games since Nerlens Noel went down with a concussion — including a 142-point outburst by the Hawks on Tuesday night. Like Atlanta, the Lakers push the pace and will try to play uptempo. Both the Thunder and Lakers average 105.8 possessions per game — tied for third-most in the league. Here’s to hoping the OKC defense is better (particularly against the pick-n-roll), but it could quickly turn into another shootout if not.
Luckily for OKC:
The Other Guys. With LeBron unavailable yet again, the burden will fall on the young trio of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball. Kuzma is averaging 18.7 points and six rebounds this season — and scored a career-high 41 points against the Pistons last week. He was limited to just 16 minutes against the Thunder on January 2, leaving early due to a back injury. He figures to be more of a thorn in OKC’s side this evening.
The Other Other Guys. Though Kuzma, Ingram, and Ball will likely lead the charge, it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (25 pts) and JaVale McGee (15 pts, 8 reb) that paced the Lakers against OKC last time. L.A. actually held a four-point lead after three quarters before getting outscored 29-18 by OKC in the fourth. If they can get contributions from unlikely sources again, this game could go either way.