Showtime: 6:30 pm PT
Plot: Jodie Meeks with a career-high 42 points. Kent Bazemore with a game sealing lay-in. Ryan Kelly dropping a 12 point, 5 rebound, 8 assist night against one of the best defenses in the league. The worst team in the Western Conference defeating the best team in the Western Conference. Sunday was, without a doubt, the best win of the season in an otherwise horrible year for the Los Angeles Lakers. They won't forget it for a second. But neither will the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Show makes their way to OKC tonight after a nice four day reprieve, facing the Thunder in the second game of a home and away set. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company won't soon dismiss their loss to the Lakers, one of their most disgraceful L's of the season. The Thunder and their fans alike are becoming more and more alarmed at the team's remarkably lax play as of late, going just 4-5 in their last 9 games. With losses to the likes of the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, OKC simply has let their guard down against squads that they should absolutely annihilate. As maligned as Kendrick Perkins has been as an offensive and even defensive contributor this season, there's no doubt that his injury--not to mention the same to defensive perimeter anchor Thabo Sefolosha--has left the Thunder without a certain intensity on the floor.
Luckily for the Thunder, a loss to the Lakers seems to have snapped them back into shape. OKC defeated the red-hot Houston Rockets on Tuesday behind Durant's 42 points and Westbrook's 24. The team showed a ton of fight against James Harden's 28 points and other assorted nonsense from H-Town guard Patrick Beverley. With some naysayers hot on their tails, the Thunder will assuredly bring that same intensity into their return engagement with the Show. Naturally, this is no good for the Lakers. Of course, in addition to the bad news they received yesterday.
The negativity I'm referring to is naturally the official loss of Kobe Bryant for the year. Though few thought he may actually return for a handful of games down the stretch, the Lakers and their medical staff realized that the Black Mamba's injury hadn't healed enough to prepare him for in-game competition over the next 18 games. Without the hope that Bryant will return at all, the Lakers have to keep on doing what served them best Sunday afternoon--shoot often and accurately with deadly ball movement from a team-full of willing passers.
Truthfully, I have little hope that the Lakers can pull out another miracle just days removed from the sight of essentially the very same one. I expect the Thunder to come at LA with revenge on the brain and unafraid of making an example out of the worst team in the Western Conference.
The Lakers have proven they can beat OKC...if OKC beats themselves. Can lightning strike twice?
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino