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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, look to make OKC the latest victim of the L.A. back-to-back

The trip to Los Angeles was always a tough one for teams for, um, reasons, but now both the Clippers and Lakers are elite teams. The purple and gold will look to take advantage of that for the second game in a row tonight.

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Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Teams coming to Los Angeles for a back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers have always faced a bit of a challenge thanks to the city’s nightlife and at least one of the two franchises being good at any given time. This season, though, with both teams being legitimate title contenders, opposing squads might need to consider a curfew for the night between those games, if they aren’t already.

The Atlanta Hawks’ lone trip to L.A. this season featured two blowout losses for a combined 70 points. In the first quarter, they looked like a young team that had Chandler Parsons to theoretically show them all the city has to offer.

It’s going to be interesting to monitor how the opposition fares in this trip all season, with the Oklahoma City Thunder playing the next test case.

OKC has started this season fairly slow, though that is to be expected given all the roster turnover and the sentiment around the organization that almost no one will be involved with the team beyond their next extended losing streak, let alone this season. They sit at 5-8 thus far and are coming off a tough, late loss to the Clippers on Monday night.

L.A., conversely, is coming off a comfortable win against Atlanta with a full extra day of rest, is the more talented team and has played much better to start this season than OKC has. So what I’m saying is: I’m up for a frustrating recap tonight as the Lakers play with their food for large chunks of the game.

In terms of actual basketball matchups, Chris Paul actually does present a couple issues for the Lakers, even at his advanced age. When OKC runs pick-and-roll sets against JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard and they fall into their typical drop coverage (meaning they play conservatively to keep the play in front of them), that will lead to amply opportunities for Paul to hit that midrange jumper he’s still very good at.

Steven Adams is also the kind of oversized, physical big who gives Anthony Davis some issues. Adams simply doesn’t budge when Davis goes to overpower him and is an absolute beast on the offensive glass.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has also enjoyed a nice start to the season and has the length to bother the Lakers’ at-times questionable ball-handlers on the defensive end.

LeBron James actually touched on all of this at shootaround this morning

“Their two guard monsters they have between Chris Paul and Shai. They do a great job of putting not only themselves, but their teammates to be successful,” James told reporters. “Steven Adams is obviously capable of having a big game, a big double-double so you’ve always got to watch out for him.

“And then Gallo is shooting the ball really well, and Schroeder and those guys off the bench, they come in with a lot of energy and effort. You have to be ready for that hit coming off the bench. They create a lot of situations that put your defense in tough situations and we have to be ready for all that.”

Those concerns aside, this does feel like the kind of game the Lakers should win fairly comfortably. Yes, OKC is hitting threes at the 11th-best rate in the NBA (36%), and yes there are a few individual matchups that fans should be wary of, but the Lakers are the better team and well be immensely more rested for the game than their opponent. More often than not, that’s all one could ask for.

Tip-off for tonight’s game is 7:30 p.m. PST, and will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet and nationally on NBATV.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can yell at this author on Twitter @AnthonyIrwinLA.

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