Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder/Lakers match-up: “The Lakers are a perfect opponent to test that mental concentration and stamina for the full 48 minutes, because they’re a young, run-and-gun kind of squad that is looking to push the pace and the envelope all night. With Lonzo Ball at the head of the attack and vibrant, bouncy forwards in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, the Thunder will be pressed at every position to get back on defense, show a wall of defenders and close out properly on drives. Otherwise, the Lakers could have a slew of dunks on attacks to the rim.”
Joey Ramirez (Lakers.com) previews tonight’s game from the other side: “Exactly a fortnight ago, the Thunder handed the Lakers one of their worst losses of the season. Their big three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony all scored 20-plus points — as did rookie Terrance Ferguson, who had his best game as a pro. It’s worth keeping in mind that the Lakers also didn’t have Ball in that game. Oklahoma City boasts one of the best defenses in the league, holding opponents to the third-fewest points per game (101.0). The Lakers managed just 96 in that first meeting. Finding scoring will be L.A.’s biggest challenge in this game, as Ball’s absence puts a wrench into its fast-break attack. Look for one of Ingram, Julius Randle or Jordan Clarkson to take up the responsibilities of shouldering the scoring load and making plays for others.”
Ohm Youngmisuk (ESPN) on the Lakers likely being without Lonzo Ball tonight in OKC: “Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is unlikely to play against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday because of a sore left knee, but Brandon Ingram is expected to return from an ankle injury. “He got treatment,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Ball on Tuesday. “He’ll get treatment again later today, but it’s still just too sore for him to get on the basketball court. Technically, he’s questionable. But he didn’t practice today, so I wouldn’t expect him to play [Wednesday].”
Brett Dawson on Billy Donovan liking the recent performance of the all-bench lineup: “Over the past two games, the lineup of Felton, Abrines, Grant, Huestis and Patterson has played 15 minutes together — second on the team to the starting lineup’s 35 — and outscored the Hornets and Kings by 18.9 points per 100 possessions. That’s in part, Donovan said, because Felton is doing a better job of using his penetration to set up good shots for his second-unit teammates. When George and Felton are on the floor together, Felton’s tendency is to look to feature George, Donovan said, and that’s fine with the Thunder coach.”
Kelly Scaletta (DIME) on the good, bad, and ugly in the Thunder offense: “You’ll notice that the offensive rating was trending up, but recently, it’s trending back down. Equally concerning is that the defense, which had been keeping them in play, has been gearing down. A large part of that was due to the absence of Andre Roberson, but that also partially contributed to the temporary uptick in the offense. The last two games have been better for the Thunder defensively, but their opponents were the Hornets and Kings, and neither team is especially potent on the offensive end. Let’s try to determine where the team has had success and where it has struggled by looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Thunder’s offense.”
Bobby Marks (ESPN Insider) on Sam Presti’s trade deadline history: “Deadline trades: 12 / Turning over the roster: Few teams rely on building a roster through trades more than the Thunder and Presti. Since taking over in 2007, Presti has made 47 trades, including last February when Oklahoma City acquired Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and the Bulls’ 2018 second-round pick. McDermott and the Bulls’ pick — along with Enes Kanter — were eventually included in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Two years earlier, Kanter was acquired from Utah as part of a three-team trade with Detroit. Backup Reggie Jackson went to Detroit and Oklahoma City sent a 2018 first-rounder to Utah. Though the Utah and Chicago trades focused on improving the roster, Oklahoma City also put an emphasis in 2016 on reducing its luxury tax. The Thunder reduced their bill by $8.1 million at the expense of Steve Novak, D.J. Augustin, $1.1 million cash and two 2016 second-round picks.”
Adam Fromal (B/R) on possible trade deals for Lou Williams: “Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Lou Williams / Los Angeles Clippers Get: Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson, 2018 second-round pick (31-50 protected). The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the few teams that should be interested in acquiring Williams but can’t spare a first-round pick for his services. They already owe a protected 2018 first-rounder to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they’re saddled with giving one to the Orlando Magictwo years after that first selection conveys. The absolute earliest they could offer Los Angeles a top-30 slot would be in 2022, and that’s not exactly going to sway the Clippers. So instead, they’re forced to cobble together a package of intriguing bench pieces with upside alongside a sweetener in the form of a heavily protected second-rounder.”
Around the League: Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica had a brawl during last night’s Wolves/Magic game…. Trevor Ariza is being pegged as the instigator of Monday’s Rockets/Clippers fiasco…. 2018 Mock NBA Draft…. Celtics Hall-of-Famer Jo Jo White passed away yesterday…. The incomparable Lee Jenkins on the Rockets, Clippers and Monday’s madness.