This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports West, Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
For Player Matchups, go here.
Backstory: If there's a place to be for Oklahoma Sports Fans to be on Friday, it's inside the Ford Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder are preparing for one of the biggest matchups in Franchise history as they continue to battle for a playoff spot. It's not really significant because this game carries playoff seeding implications, or even because the Lakers are a great team. It's significant because if the Thunder win tonight and go on to the playoffs, people will ask whether you were there when the Thunder beat the Lakers. If we lose, then it would still be a heck of a game.
The last time we played the Lakers, I gave 5 things that would have to happen if the Thunder were to win the game. I'm listing them here again (with a few updates), because they still ring true today.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Ibaka, Krstic, and Collison all need to play out of their shoes defensively and prevent Bynum and Gasol from exploiting us inside too much.
4. James Harden needs to score and shoot well. He did wonderfully against the Rockets, but that was his type of game. If he doesn't score, our bench starts to become anemic on offense, and we can't afford any droughts against the Lakers.
5. Thabo Sefolosha will have to have a profound effect on Kobe Bryant. I'm talking turnovers, missed shots, whatever. This is probably the most important key. The Lakers offense starts and ends with Kobe Bryant, so you're going to have to limit him if you want to win.
In the end, the Lakers are a team filled with Superstars, but outside of those guys, the team has serious weaknesses. Their big man backups are pretty much worthless, and their backup guards probably couldn't break into the Thunder rotation if they wanted to. Aside from all of the above that has to happen when the starters are out on the floor, the Thunder are going to have to beat the bench. And with Andrew Bynum out for the game, that only holds more true than ever, as the Lakers' bench stalwart, Lamar Odom, is now forced to start.
Thus, in my final act in this preview, I will be a complete homer and predict the Thunder to win, even though I don't think there's any way they're going to win. On a personal note, I really hope the Thunder do win, because the Fakers are the team I hate most in the NBA, with Kobe being my most hated player.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Los Angeles Lakers 110