This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, KCAL TV 9
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Ah, the big one. We've been tiding ourselves over with small time matchups against the Kings and Pistons, and we were somewhat satsified with our lunch against the Trail Blazers. But guess what? It's time for dinner, and we're hungry.
The Lakers are one of the teams predicted to dominate this year, with a monster lineup of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and Kobe Bryant. (Sh! Be quiet about Derek Fisher!) Yet, they've performed somewhat below expectations, playing relatively close games with the injury-riddled Clippers and the good but not great Hawks. In addition, they've lost to the old men known as the Mavericks. And, Pau Gasol has been sidelined with an early injury. All of these factors together make the Lakers look human, and that's a bad thing this early in the season.
The Thunder are coming off of a tough home loss to the Trail Blazers, and two solid wins over the Kings and Pistons. But these are two very different 2-1 teams, and the Thunder come in as the clear underdogs here.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Nenad Krstic
Andrew Bynum is the clear winner here, no matter how you slice it. Krstic has a better outside shot, but Bynum can score better inside, can defend better, can rebound better, and he isn't balding.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Lamar Odom
This is a tough one to determine. If you're from Oklahoma, you'll say that Jeff Green has the clear advantage. But, if you're a Laker fan, you'll give the clear advantage to Lamar Odom. Say what you want about Jeff Green, but Lamar Odom is more of a true Power Forward. He's a better rebounder, and has been going crazy in the assist category this season. Jeff Green will get a few jumpers in on Odom, but I think Odom has the overall advantage. In 1-2 seasons, Jeff Green will clearly be the better player. But, for now, Lamar Odom is still just slightly better.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Ron Artest
Kevin Durant is better offensively, and Ron Artest is better defensively. That's basically what this matchup comes down to. But, Kevin Durant will be much more helpful to his team overall, so he gets the nod here.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Kobe Bryant
Hm. As much as I hate Kobe, I have to give him the edge here. Again, I really hate Kobe Bryant. And I really love Thabo. But sometimes, common sense just has to get in the way of homerism.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Derek Fisher
The only matchup that's an easy win for the Thunder, and we should relish it. Derek Fisher is old, has lost his shot, and doesn't play a lick of defense. Even in his prime, he couldn't hold a candle to Westbrook. If the Thunder are smart, they'll try to exploit him. If the Lakers are smart, they'll have Kobe guard Russell, and Derek guard Thabo. Either way, I think Thabo is still good enough to exploit Fisher, even if not on an extreme level.
Battle of the Benches
The Lakers may have a great team, but without Odom, their bench looks extremely thin. The offensively inept Mbenga, the painfully average Luke Walton, the streaky shooter in Vujacic, the above-average PG in Farmar, and the promising young forward in Josh Powell. No big stars here. While Etan Thomas and Nick Collison both beat Mbenga and Powell, I don't think James Harden, Kevin Ollie, and possibly Ibaka are as good as Vujacic, Farmar, and Walton. So we're better in the front court, and they're better in the back court and in depth.
Coaching and Intangibles
The Lakers have Phil Jackson on their side. But, we have home court advantage, and don't have the pressure of expected success on our backs. It may not be much, but it's still something we can ride on.
The Lakers are better than us up and down, inside and out. Our only hopes are to exploit Derek Fisher, have KD outwit Artest, hope that Sefolosha and Harden can slow Kobe Down, hope that Etan Thomas can play out of his shoes and shut down Bynum, and see if Green can out-rebound and out-score Odom. To be honest, we don't have much hope. Lets just hope the Thunder feed off of the energy of the crowd, play every possession like it's their last, and tire the Lakers out so we can beat their bench. There's no night rather than tonight that I'd like to have a win, and if the Mavericks can do it, so can we.
Thunder 89, Lakers 111
Sorry, guys. It's the Lakers, for Pete's sake. We'll play with them for about a half before we get tired and have a third quarter collapse.
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'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!