- When: Tuesday, 05 March 2013 at 8:30 PM CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City OK
When the Oklahoma City Thunder handily defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2nd time in the season on January 11th, I jokingly tweeted that I would only wear my “Beat LA” Thunder shirt for Clippers games from here on out. On their third meeting of the season, though, the Lakers grinded out a hard fought victory at the Staples Center and started their climb towards mediocre respectability. Since that win on January 27th, the Lakers are 11-5 and within 2 games of the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoff race. So with that, I’m currently wearing my “Beat LA “shirt. Congratulations Laker-Nation, you’ve earned by closet’s respect again.
All joking aside though, this is a big game for both parties involved. With the injury to San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, the Thunder see this game as an opportunity to make ground on the Spurs in their quest for home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs and into the Finals. Also, this is an opportunity to keep these pesky Lakers at bay, because, truthfully, an 8-seeded Lakers team is a whole helluva lot scarier than an 8-seeded Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz team. The Lakers, of course, see this game as a must win in their quest to salvage the season and make the playoffs.
The big question concerning the Thunder is the availability of Serge Ibaka. Because of his karate chop of Blake Griffin’s baby factory, there may be a possible suspension upcoming. As of early Tuesday afternoon, though, there has been no word from the NBA offices. If Ibaka is not available for the game, look for Perry Jones III to start in his place. Scott Brooks is not very keen on deviating from his substitution patterns and the Lakers are pretty thin at power forward, with Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill being injured. With Jones III in the starting lineup, Brooks can continue with his substitution pattern of Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet off the bench, with Kevin Durant possibly playing some power forward in the 2nd half. With all that said, though, I think Ibaka skirts by with a hefty fine and no suspension.
Los Angeles Lakers
- PG – Steve Nash
- SG – Kobe Bryant
- SF – Metta World Peace
- PF – Earl Clark
- C – Dwight Howard
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Composure – With the near fracas that formed in the Staples Center, and the recent comments by Kobe Bryant that he would’ve “smacked him (Ibaka) in the mouth,” look for there to be an almost playoff-like, charged atmosphere in the arena tonight. If anyone has followed Kobe Bryant’s career though, you’ll know that he uses psychology more than any other player. That statement was a psychological bait he threw out into the water. It’s up to the Thunder players to keep their composure and not take the bait.
2. KD and Russ – It will be interesting to see how the Lakers start out the game defensively. With Westbrook coming into the game playing the best basketball of his career, do the Lakers start out with Kobe on Westbrook, or do they leave Nash on him? This decision may dictate how KD plays. If Kobe start off on Westbrook, then it’s up to Durant to take over. But if Nash starts off on Westbrook, Durant should take more of the facilitator role and let Westbrook handle the weaker, slower Nash.
3. Perkins – Dwight Howard seems to be coming around from his earlier injuries. He seems to finally be getting into shape and he hasn’t complained about his shoulder. With that said, this is the main reason we have Kendrick Perkins on our team. Contain Howard and that forces Kobe to go into hero-mode, which works in the Thunder’s favor when you have a defender like Thabo Sefolosha.