Preview 45 of 82: Lakers @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Few things in this world are worse than the 15-28 Los Angeles Lakers right now. Their underwhelming star point guard Lonzo Ball is sidelined with a knee injury, rumors are swirling that Lakers head coach Luke Walton may be on his way out, and after a nine-game losing streak, the team now finds itself fourth from the bottom in the Western Conference. Unlike previous seasons, the Lakers are not tanking on purpose. In fact, LA has zero incentive to tank given that their 2018 first-round pick will go to either the Celtics or the Sixers, regardless of the Lakers’ final standing.
As the Lakers will be without Ball (and possibly Larry Nance Jr), tonight’s game should be a comfortable win for the Thunder (24-20). The last time the Lakers and Thunder met in early January, the Thunder won 133-96 (the most points the Lakers have allowed to the Thunder since the team relocated to OKC). However, the Thunder has an annoying tendency to play poorly against teams it’s much better than. Oklahoma City is 9-8 against teams currently seven-or-more games below .500, which is the worst such record in the Western Conference.
Before Saturday’s game against Charlotte (15-24), Carmelo Anthony was asked about the Thunder’s performances against sub-.500 teams. He said, “A lot of times when you give teams, those types of teams that confidence, it’s hard to fight out of that hole, because you have to make all the right plays, make every shot, and we can’t rely on that.” The other Lakers rookie, Kyle Kuzma, is exactly the type of player that the Thunder doesn’t want to give confidence to. Kuzma has the capacity to drop 10 points or 30 points depending on the night, so it will be important for the Thunder to set the pace of the game early and avoid forcing itself to play catch-up.
Update: Andre Roberson is returning from his eight-game absence and will be back in the starting lineup.
- Andre Roberson: Active — Knee
- Lonzo Ball: Out — Knee
- Larry Nance Jr: Questionable — Hip
- Brandon Ingram: Probable — Ankle
Lakers: Tyler Ennis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez
|Team||EFG%||FTA Rate||TOV%||OREB%||OPP EFG%||OPP FTA||OPP TOV%||OPP OREB%|
1/3: OKC 133, LAL 96 [BOX SCORE]
Home Sweet Home. The Thunder is looking for its sixteenth home win of the season tonight. In its ten years in Oklahoma City, the Thunder is 255-86 (.748) at home, which is the second-best home record in the NBA in that span (the San Antonio Spurs are first). Party on, ‘Peake.
Young Guns. The Lakers roster is very young with an average age of 24.6 and an average of 3.6 years of professional experience (compared to the Thunder at 26.4 years old and 5.1 years of experience). As a result of their youth, the Lakers run a very fast-paced offense, which could be challenging for slower players like Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams. The Lakers rank second in the NBA in fast-break points per game (17.0).
Turnover Trouble. One thing holding the Thunder back from greatness is turnovers. In Monday’s game against the Kings, Westbrook alone had 10, while the team as a whole had 20. To make matters worse, the Thunder only scored seven points off turnovers — compared to the Kings’ 18 points. Westbrook is currently second in the NBA in turnovers and Paul George is 12th.
Bench or Bust. Another thing holding the Thunder back from greatness is the bench. As of now, the Thunder bench is only responsible for 24.2 points per game out of 104.1 (or 23.2 percent of the Thunder’s points). Based on points per game alone, the Thunder bench is the third-worst in the NBA. Patrick Patterson, in particular, has been very underwhelming. He averaged 6.8 points per game last year in Toronto, but only 3.3 this season. However, he might be on to something after scoring 10 points on 3-4 shooting from three in Monday’s win against the Kings.