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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: A must-win in December?

In hopes of snapping their losing streak, the Lakers are treating Saturday’s game as a must-win, which adds another layer to a tough match-up with the Thunder.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers will close out their current road trip and their pre-Christmas schedule with a second trip of the season to Oklahoma City in search of a much different result than their last game against the Thunder.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

When: 5:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 23

Where: Paycom Center

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

The Lakers are in a bit of a rut as things stand, to say the least. Losers of five of their last six and the last four, they’re in desperate need of a slump-busting win.

Perhaps as a bit of added motivation to get that win, the Lakers are treating Saturday as a must-win, a strategy that surely won’t backfire in any way. If they get the win, it will almost certainly come wit ha huge sense of relief. Lose, and this single defeat feels much worse.

No pressure, then!

In the previous meeting between the two sides, the Lakers were closing out a road trip that had depleted them mentally and literally as Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, Jaxson Hayes, Gabe Vincent and Cam Reddish all did not play. Predictably, the Lakers couldn’t muster much outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and lost going away.

The Thunder were a far more energetic side on that night and played at a pacer and effort level the Lakers couldn’t match. On Saturday, though, the Lakers will have a lot more players at their disposal, potentially the full roster, in fact.

The Lakers have spoken about how they can only control the things they can control this season. Well the things they can’t control are going their way as well heading into this one. In a lot of senses, it’s up to them, now.

As for the game itself, the Lakers are going to have an advantage in the interior against a small Thunder side. AD pretty much had his way in the last game, finishing with 31 points and 14 rebounds on 11-18 shooting. Exploiting that again will be key for the Lakers.

The weakness of the Thunder defensively is that they allow a lot of corner 3-pointers and long-range efforts overall. The Lakers aren’t built to punish them for that, but those opportunities should be there.

It’s certainly a winnable game, but the Thunder are the No. 2 team in the Western Conference for a reason.

Notes and Updates

  • As listed above, the Lakers had good news on the injury front with their report released on Friday. Jalen Hood-Schifino is listed as probable after missing a number of games with back spasms while Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent both are probable as well.
  • LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both questionable, as has been more or less standard protocol this season. The other change is that Rui Hachimura is listed as questionable with left wrist soreness after his scary fall against the Timberwolves.
  • For the Thunder, Josh Giddey (left ankle sprain) is out.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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