This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 8:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports West, NBA TV
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Ah, we meet our indestructible foes once again.
We've seen the Lakers twice already this season. The first time was an expression of almost pure joy, as the Thunder nearly upset the Lakers, even taking them to overtime. It was at a time where we felt the Thunder oculd conquer even the strongest of the NBA's teams, as we were 2-2 and beat the Magic a few games later. Then, the other game can be seen as a coming back to Earth moment, as the Thunder got pulverized by the better team, which then featured Pau Gasol.
But, what have the Lakers been doing since we last saw them? Winning. And Winning. One Loss to Utah. But then, more winning. Their record is 22-4. They're not going to set records or anything, but it's a record that no team would pass up or sneeze at. Needless to say, this game means a lot more to the Thunder than it does the Lakers. If the Lakers win, it's just another brick laid in the wall of victory. But, if the Thunder win, it would be a Titanic upset, and a huge boost to the Thunder as they would secure wrapping up the toughest part of their schedule at .500. It would also send a huge message to the league.
Needless to say though, the Lakers definitely aren't overlooking us. They know all too well that we can sneak up on tough opponents, and they'll want to make sure to put the Thunder away by the third quarter, or it could mean big trouble.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Yes, I'm doing these matchups in reverse order. Why? Well, I copy and pasted them from the last preview, in which they were in reverse order, and because it's the only matchup that we can win. Derek Fisher doesn't do much more than pass the ball, defend poorly, and shoot these days, so I'm glad we have Russell Westbrook on our side. He'll have a mildly productive night, but nothing special.
Now, here's where we can start crying. Kobe Bryant has been successfully slowed, but in no way stopped by Thabo Sefolosha. Don't get me wrong, I love having Thabo in these situations, but it's the equivalent of putting 5 more boxcars on the end of a steam-engine powered train. The train might go a bit slower, but it will by no means stop. Expect lots of valiant efforts and a few more points than usual from Sefolosha, and a slightly watered-down Kobe Bryant.
Anything we can do, the Lakers can do better. Sure, we can slow down Kobe with Thabo, but they can majorly slow KD down with Ron Artest. In this case, putting Ron Artest on Kevin Durant is like mixing half grape juice and half water. It's solid, but not as good as it used to be.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Pau Gasol
And here again, the Thunder hit another brick wall. Jeff Green has struggled in every matchup this year against legitimate Power Forwards (well, sans the Pistons matchup). And, here's Pau Gasol, one of the top 5 Power Forwards in the league. Doh! Major advantage to the Lakers here.
Hey! It's brick wall city! Krstic has been incredibly ineffective against the Lakers in the past, and not much is going to change here. He's going to get completely dominated on the inside, and the Lakers defense is generally good enough to where they don't have to worry about his jumpshot. Again, Major advantage to the Lakers here.
Battle of the Benches:
Ibaka and Harden have struggled mightily against the Lakers, missing shots left and right. Thus, while I'd say the Thunder generally out-talent the Laker bench in every way but Odom, I'd say the Laker bench will perform slightly better than the Thunder bench here.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Lakers are on a huge run, are at home, are just as well rested as the Thunder, and have Phil Jackson on their side. Advantage: Lakers.
Okay, so I've spelled major doom and gloom so far. And you want to know what it will take for the Thunder to win this game. I'll tell you what it will take: A Christmas Miracle. Okay, okay, all joking aside, it's going to take a lot. First of all Russell Westbrook has to exploit the Derek Fisher matchup somehow. He's done decently in the past, but I'd like to see him get to the line more often, which is kind of difficult to do gainst Derek Fisher, one of the best floppers in the league. Secondly, Jeff Green needs to find his way around Pau Gasol. Not an easy task, but maybe resorting to a good amount of mid-range jumpers will do the trick. Thirdly, Ibaka, Krstic, Collison, and Thomas all need to play out of their shoes and prevent Bynum and Gasol from exploiting us inside too much. Fourthly, James Harden needs to step up and make his shots. In the close game he was 3 of 9, but in the blowout he was 2 of 15, also going 0 of 10 from 3 Point Land. Yikes. Just pass the ball if you can;t make it, dude.Fifth, Thabo Sefolosha will have to have a profound effect on Kobe Bryant. I'm talking turnovers, missed shots, whatever. If all of those things happen, we'll win. If 3 or 4 happen, winning is a possibility. If less, then I really doubt the Thunder will win.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 105, Oklahoma City 83
Don't let me discourage you guys though. I want to see an upset tonight! I hate the Lakers! Go Thunder!!!!
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I might be here during the game to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!