The Thunder got the best of the Lakers in their first and only meeting of the season earlier this month, beating L.A. 107-100. Paul George led OKC with 37 points despite a valiant effort from the crowd at Staples Center to throw him off of his game. Unfortunately, it seemingly had the opposite effect.
The Lakers won’t be playing at home this time around, but George is still going to get up to play L.A. like he has his throughout his career. Russell Westbrook will also be looking to have a bounce back game after going 3-20 from the field in their first matchup.
So how will the Lakers steal a win on the road on Thursday? The short answer is: They probably don’t.
The Lakers struggled to get their offense going against the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the worst defensive teams in the league. There’s no reason to believe their offense will look any better against the Thunder, who are the top-ranked defensive team in the NBA.
Sure, Luke Walton had some success with his new-look starting lineup against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, but I use the term “success” lightly given that Chicago is basically a G League team. He’ll use the same starting lineup on Thursday, according to Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register.
If the Lakers are going to keep the Thunder close, their game plan is going to have to be similar to the one they used against the Detroit Pistons: Keep their bigs off of the glass and make their guards shoot. The Lakers can live with Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson and Dennis Schroder chucking up shots, but they can’t afford to let Steven Adams bully them in the paint.
Offensively, the Lakers will have to maximize whatever production they can get out of their second unit, particularly in the paint. Without Nerlens Noel, who suffered a concussion earlier this month, the Thunder don’t have a reliable backup center.
The Thunder aren’t unbeatable, as evidenced by the fact they’ve lost four of their last five games, but it’s hard to bet on the Lakers figuring it out. We’ll see if they can tonight, with tip-off at 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT.