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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: How can L.A. move past their struggles?

The Lakers need to solve their inconsistencies before it becomes one of the reasons for their downfall this season, but things won’t get any easier on Monday against the Thunder.

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

The Lakers lost their second straight game in a row to the Utah Jazz last Saturday, dropping them to 11th in the Western Conference standings a 19-21 record. Now 3-7 in their last 10 games, L.A.’s next slate of games only gets tougher as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

When: 7:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 15

Where: Crypto Arena

Watch: NBA TV, Spectrum Sportsnet

It was just three games ago when I wrote a preview about whether or not the Lakers’ dry spell was over. It turns out that is not the case because, after winning two straight against the Clippers and Raptors, the purple and gold took a step back by losing their next two. This is the type of inconsistency that has caused the Lakers’ downfall and struggle in the last month.

The Lakers’ loss to the Jazz was the perfect depiction of their inconsistencies this season. On a night when D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves combined for 58 points on 22-34 shooting from the field, it was Anthony Davis who had an off night offensively despite what his triple-double stat line indicated. It also didn’t help that LeBron James didn’t play, forcing the Lakers put out their 11th starting lineup of the season.

And speaking of lineups, it seems that L.A. has yet to find their go-to one despite it being 40 games into the season. Their most recent matchup against the Thunder on Dec. 23 was the second time the Lakers made a starting lineup change this season as they moved Russell to the bench for Jarred Vanderbilt to lean towards a more defensive-mined approach. They ended up with a win on that night but that’s no longer the Lakers’ starting lineup three weeks later.

The Lakers’ inconsistencies have been a huge part of their struggles and if they want to change that, they might want to take a page out of the Thunder’s book. OKC has been the model of consistency this season. Not only have they remained in the No.2 seed in the Western Conference for most of the year, but they’ve ranked top five on offense and defense throughout the year. They’ve only lost 11 times this season and have won 8 out of their last 10 games.

The Lakers have to be prepared for an OKC team that’s going to play hard on Monday. The best way L.A. can win this is if they play exactly like how they did in their previous matchup when James and Davis combined for 66 points and got solid help from their supporting cast. That was the same night the Lakers shot 50% from the three-point line and limited OKC, the current second-best three-point shooting team in the league, to just 31.7%.

This is a big game for the Lakers because the last thing they want to do now is lose three in a row and fall further in the standings. If they approach their last game against the Thunder on the road as a must-win then they should do that again ahead of Monday’s match.

Notes and Updates:

  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Anthony Davis (left ankle sprain and bone bruise) is listed as probable while LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) is questionable. Meanwhile, Cam Reddish (left knee effusion), who missed the second half of the last two games, is listed out for this one, as well as Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery).
  • As for the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right knee sprain) is noted as questionable.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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