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Thunder vs. Lakers: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Lakers: Pregame Primer



Thunder (25-11, 8-6 road) vs. Lakers (8-29, 4-10 home)

TV: ESPN/FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 9:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.3 (2nd), Lakers – 97.3 (29th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.4 (9th), Lakers – 107.7 (30th)

A day after dismantling the Grizzlies for the second straight time this season, the Thunder showed love and appreciation to one of their own as they attended Russell Westbrook night at Pauley Pavillion as UCLA hosted Arizona. The university honored Westbrook, who made the largest financial contribution ever by a former basketball player in December. The university plans to name its practice court after the Thunder guard.

But last night was about Westbrook, the person, and his team was there to celebrate him. By all accounts, all the players, coaches, and Thunder GM Sam Presti were in attendance for this event. The university planned this evening to coincide with the Thunder being in town to play the Lakers. The Bruins gave everyone in attendance lensless glasses, and, in manifest destiny fashion, won the game with a final second shot right in front of Westbrook.

This type of thing is not something you often hear about with other teams. Whether its a rookie celebrating his number being retired at his local high school, or a superstar being honored by his former university, the Thunder do a good job of being united and celebrating each other’s life achievements. As sappy as it sounds, remember to keep that in mind as the Thunder (and Kevin Durant) head into the free agency period this July.

Series History

This is the third of four meetings between the Thunder and Lakers. The Thunder have won the previous two games by a combined 75 points. Nothing more to see here.

The Opponent

The Lakers come into this game with an 8-29 record, which is second worst in the league. Surprisingly, though, their best stretch of the season has come in their past 5 games. They put together a 3-game win streak, beating the Celtics in Boston, and the Sixers and Suns at home.

The young core of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr are coming around and developing at a nice pace. Clarkson and Russell appear to be the backcourt of the future for the Lakers, while Nance Jr. seems like one of those players that will carve out a successful 12-15 year career as a glue guy/consistent role player. The odd man out may be Randle, who has the ability to put up big numbers from the PF position, but struggles defensively due to being undersized. Russell sprained his ankle in last night’s loss to the Kings and will be a game-time decision heading into tonight’s game. Shooting guard Lou Williams has been on fire of late, averaging 20.6 points on 44.4% shooting from 3-point territory over the last 5 games. Kobe Bryant has shown flashes of his old self of late, but still remains inefficient. He sat out the 3 previous games before putting up 28 points in 31 minutes last night.

3 Big Things

1. Points in the Paint

In the last two meetings, the Thunder have essentially lived in the paint. The Thunder have averaged 63 points in the paint against the Lakers this season. There should be no reason why that stops tonight.

2. Rebounding

In addition to the points in the paint, the Thunder absolutely murdered the Lakers on the boards. They allowed on 20 offensive rebounds in the two games and outrebounded the Lakers by an average of 25 boards per game in the two games.

3. Focus

The last time the Thunder played in Los Angeles, they found themselves down 39-42 with 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. A three point deficit in the 2nd quarter isn’t anything to write home about. But it came at a time when the Thunder’s bench lost a little bit of their focus and allowed the Lakers to not only cut into a deficit, but eventually take the lead. You could feel the young players on the Lakers gaining confidence with every shot that went in and the crowd started to get into it. Eventually, order was restored when Durant and Westbrook checked back in, and the Thunder went into halftime with an 11 point lead.

Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:

Lou Williams – Sweet Lou has the type of game that could give the Thunder trouble. A good shooter with the ability to heat up from outside. He could single-handedly keep the Lakers in the game for a stretch of time.