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Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers: 2010-2011 Game 40 Preview; The Epic Battle Resumes

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This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (27-13) vs. The Los Angeles Lakers (30-12)

Time: 9:30 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

TV: Turner Network Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), 710 AM ESPN Los Angeles

Enemy Blog(s): Silver Screen and Roll, With Malice, Forum Blue and Gold

Previous Meeting(s): None.

Pau Gasol gets the offensive rebound, and makes the layup that destroys Oklahoma City's hopes of a playoff upset.

That is my everlasting image of the Lakers.

Sure, I've seen them since then, and there will be many more memories to this team to be had. But, somehow, that image is going to be burned into my head for the rest of my life. (Unless I suffer from amnesia, Alzheimer's, dementia, or simply choose to forget it.)

Fortunately for all of our sakes, it's time to move on. The NBA was smart with it's scheduling and put all of our Lakers games later in the season, so as to increase the intensity of the rivalry. The Lakers haven't changed much from their championship year. Kobe is still there, smug as ever, Artest is still there, crazily hilarious as ever, and Phil Jackson is there, as zen as ever. Their bench has had a few adjustments made, though. Sasha Vujacic was sent off to New Jersey on December 15th, so the Lakers could shore up their front court with former Thunder player Joe Smith. They were comfortable in giving away Vujacic because they had essentially replaced him with Steve Blake, a sharpshooting backup point guard. Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff were also acquired over the off-season in order to deepen the bench, but they have both fallen victim to injury, forcing the Lakers to rely on familiar faces like Luke Walton. The Lakers generally keep their bench to eight players though, so don't expect anyone but Odom, Brown, and Blake to make an impact on tonight's game.

That, while being a strength for the Lakers, can also be their greatest weakness. The Lakers don't have a whole lot of depth or confidence in their players beyond their rotation, and their players will be woozy after playing in LA last night, so we might see some reserves on the floor. Lamar Odom and Ron Artest were involved in a altercation in last night's game and ejected, so there's a possibility that one or both of them will be suspended for tonight's game.

Look to see lots of James Harden tonight, as he will be playing in his home town and the Thunder try to match up with the Lakers in such a way that a scorer will be able to override Fisher or Blake's bad defense. There will also probably be a lack of Jeff Green at power forward, as we try to match up with the deadly Gasol/Bynum combo. All in all, the Lakers will be hungry for a win tonight, but they are coming off of a loss to the lowly Clippers and on the second game of a back-to-back. Normally, I'd predict them to win, but with all of the crazy things happening in Laker land at the moment, I think we may have caught them at the right time.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 105, Los Angeles Lakers 104 (OT)