Showtime: 7:30pm PT
Plot: The Lakers will play eight guys tonight at STAPLES Center, one of which has an elbow that only hurts when he shoots and passes. Two of his teammates were drafted deep into the second round, and two more were waived earlier this season.
Meanwhile on the other sideline, the leading candidate for the 2013-2014 NBA MVP is staring straight at them.
The Oklahoma City Thunder come to town tonight to play a team that more strongly resembles the Los Angeles D-Fenders than the Los Angeles Lakers. With Steve Nash and six of his teammates sitting out the contest with injuries, the Show will be extremely short-handed against the team with the best record in the NBA. Led by Kevin Durant, who is undoubtedly playing the best basketball of his career, OKC has been destroying the field even without the injured Russell Westbrook. They're 14-2 in their last 16 games, including two wins against the Portland Trail Blazers, as well as W's against the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder aren't just winning--they're winning against the best teams in the NBA.
Of course, the assault starts with Durant. He's coming off of a month of January where he had this cartoon stat line: 35.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.6 spg on .549/..436/.890 shooting. That. Is. Insane. He's done more than keep his team afloat while missing the injured Westbrook and departed Harden, bringing the Thunder back into a legitimate title conversation.
This is all to say--the Lakers are kind of screwed.
LA is in the midst of one of their worst home losing streaks ever--six straight in STAPLES Center, including a bad loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. Chris Kaman's 25 point, 14 rebound night was the lone highlight of an otherwise disappointing affair, in which the Lakers were soundly outplayed by another Western Conference bottom feeder. One can hardly blame them, to a certain degree. The remaining standing Lakers have been run ragged, being played out of their comfort zone with more minutes and in foreign positions. They have perhaps four of their best five players sitting out, with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks all sidelined with injuries of varying severity. The Lakers simply cannot compete on any given night.
I won't waste your time coming up with a game plan for success--there's really nothing they can do. Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson are Durant's best teammates, each of which have the requisite tools to take apart an extremely poor Lakers defense (offensive rebounding and point guard penetration). Even if Durant didn't play a second tonight, I'd still struggle to find ways that would to lead a Lakers win.
LA is in an extremely tough spot tonight in that they're very banged up and also playing one of the NBA's hottest teams. When the best thing I can write is "well, I hope no one else gets hurt"...it should be a long, long night for the Lakers.
But hey! Enjoy Kevin Durant, everyone.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino