This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 1:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The New Myriad, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: The American Broadcasting Company
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), 710 AM ESPN Los Angeles
Previous Meeting(s): Jan 17th
Los Angeles Lakers. ABC. Sunday. Those three phrases almost encapsulate all that this game means to the Thunder. This game is the last in a streak of National TV appearances for the Thunder, giving them a final opportunity to show the NBA what we're made of before the spotlight moves elsewhere, and everyone starts talking about boring things like baseball, NASCAR, and golf.
But it also means much more. The Thunder are finally going to get to see some of the fruits of their trades with Boston and Charlotte. Still, things remain unclear about these acquisitions. How much time will Nate Robinson see with Westbrook, Maynor, Sefolosha, Harden, and Cook all playing his positions? Is he big enough to play the two-guard? And what about Nazr Mohammed? Will he start tonight? Does he get more or less minutes than Collison? Will he play power forward or center?
Below: The Answers (Not Revealed), The Lakers Problems, How the Game Will Go, Prediction!
I don't know the answers to all of those questions, but the answers will start to poke their heads out tonight. It's unfortunate that their debut coincided with the Thunder's old rivals and defending champions coming to town in terms of wins and losses, but it's awesome from a fans perspective. Throw them into the fire, and hope that they play to their full potential.
Fortunately in terms of wins and losses, the Lakers are experiencing problems of their own. They have experience injuries to key reserves Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, affecting their already tight rotation. They're especially thin in the front court, forcing them to go small or rely on someone like Derrick Caracter or Joe Smith if another injury happens. They're also prone to mid-season slip-ups (like one that happened last week against the Magic, Bobcats, and Cavaliers) which can't really be explained by much more than an old team getting older, or just general aparthy about the regular season.
The Lakers aren't facing a catastrophe by any means, but their recent losses have opened the door for some second tier teams, like the Thunder, to beat them in the regular season, even with the recent trade. They are also forced to face the reality of facing a tough second round opponent and possibly even slipping into the fourth seed, if the Thunder are wily enough. The Thunder are only 3.5 games behind them in the standings, ever-increasing the importance of this game.
The analyst in me doesn't see the Thunder winning, with Perkins still injured. Mohammed had fared well against the Lakers during his career, but he's playing in a completely new system, and it is unknown how much scoring Brooks will let him attempt to do. It will be a close one, but I say the Lakers narrowly come out on top, no matter how much it hurts me to say it.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 107, Oklahoma City Thunder 104