Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Game 71 of 82)

westbrook thunder

  • When: Tuesday, 24 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s M.O. for the last month has been to go up about 2 games in the race for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, only to go on a losing streak (two in a row, three out of four, etc) that threatens that positioning. The time is running short for the Thunder to continue this up and down cycle of playoff positioning. At the same time, the Thunder also have aspirations of reaching the Dallas Mavericks for the 7th seed. The Mavs have an extremely rough patch coming up in the next two weeks, and could possibly lose some ground in the next 7 games. This season has been a Sisyphean task, but with 12 games left, the Thunder are in position to make the best of their early season misfortunes.

This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two opponents. The Thunder won the first two meetings, but against one of the worst teams in the league, the average margin of victory has been only 4 points. The Thunder were without Kevin Durant during the first meeting and needed an Andre Roberson defensive stand to prevent a Kobe Bryant game winner. In the 2nd meeting, the Thunder were without Durant and Russell Westbrook, but still kept the Lakers at bay behind good performances from DJ Augustin, Enes Kanter, and Jeremy Lamb.

The Opponent

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Atlanta Hawks

The Los Angeles Lakers currently find themselves with a record of 18-50, which is the 4th worst record in the league. It has been a tumultuous year for the storied franchise, but not that any of that was unexpected. Kobe Bryant’s return from injury was marred by another season-ending injury, this time his shoulder. Steve Nash’s season, and career, apparently, was ended by luggage (no, seriously, luggage) before the season even started. And the Lakers’ star rookie, Julius Randle, played in only 1 game before succumbing to a broken leg. The issue with the Lakers this season has been defense. They rank 28th in terms of opponent’s points per game (104.5) and defensive rating. The offense is led by rookie Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging 9.8 points and 2.7 assists per game. Joining him on the wings are veteran guard Wayne Ellington and veteran forward Wesley Johnson. The power forward spot will see a change in this game, as Ryan Kelly will replace Jordan Hill in the starting line-up. Why? Because, it’s the Lakers, I guess. And the center spot will be manned by former Houston Rocket Tarik Black. The bench for the Lakers is veteran-laden, led by Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, and Jordan Hill.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Los Angeles Lakers

  • PG – Jordan Clarkson
  • SG – Wayne Ellington
  • SF – Wesley Johnson
  • PF – Ryan Kelly
  • C – Tarik Black

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Kyle Singler
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Establish the Interior – Enes Kanter has had a double-double in 6 of the last 7 games he  has played. Steven Adams has had a double-double in the 4 of the last 5 games. Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black are starting for the Lakers. If Adams and Kanter don’t each end up with a double-double at the end of the game, it will be highly disappointing.

adams kanter thunder II

2. Stop trying to block lay-ups from behind – In the last two games, we’ve lost two rotation players (Nick Collison and Andre Roberson) with sprained ankles on “from behind” block attempts. Let’s not make it a hat trick for this crazy statistic.

3. Bench – The bench for the Lakers worries me a bit because of their veteran presence. The Lakers are a bit weird in that their bench players would be starting if they weren’t needing to keep their pick. In case you didn’t know, the pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers (via Phoenix) if it’s outside the first 5 picks of the draft.  Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, and Ed Davis are all capable of having good to great games at any time. With the Thunder’s own depth being a bit depleted by injuries, the bench could become an issue in this game.

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