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2012-2013 Game 20 Preview: Two-Faced Lakers See Thunder on the Road

The Los Angeles Lakers are dysfunctional. Sometimes.

Kobe, continuing to discover the virtues of big boy pants.
Kobe, continuing to discover the virtues of big boy pants.
William Bennett Berry

2012-2013 NBA Season
The Los Angeles Lakers (9-10)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4)
December 7th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
8:30 PM CST
Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 710 ESPN Los Angeles
Enemy Blogs: Silver Screen and Roll, Laker Nation, Purple and Gold Blog, Laker Liker, With Malice
Previous Meetings: None
Probable Starters
Chris Duhon PG Russell Westbrook
Kobe Bryant SG Thabo Sefolosha
Antawn Jamison SF Kevin Durant
Metta World Peace PF Serge Ibaka
Dwight Howard C Kendrick Perkins

The Los Angeles Lakers are dysfunctional. If you need any video proof, look below.

Even if you don't know anything about basketball, the problems should be obvious. Two bigs who can't score against one of the league's weakest defensive interiors. One big who can't hit free throws. A defense that doesn't know what their doing in transition, and doesn't know their rotations. A forward who thinks he's 4 years younger than he is. The list goes on.

I tried to watch their recent matchup against the Hornets to see how they could be successful, but even that game was full of errors. At one point, the Laker defense just runs away from Roger Mason, giving him a wide open jumper. Regardless, the Lakers were able to take advantage of their opponents when the Hornets offense got predictable and kept driving down the lane. This resulted in a few easy Laker steals, and Dwight's post game did the rest of the work.

But no matter how much video you watch, you're not going to be able to pin down what Lakers team will show up night to night. Sometimes, they'll blow our respectable teams like Denver or Dallas. Other times, they'll get blown out by embarrassments like Detroit or Sacramento. In their recent loss to Houston, the Lakers starters were basically destroyed by the Rockets bench in the second half after gaining a 20 point lead. They're two-faced.

The stats are no easier to read. The Lakers are one of the league's best teams in terms of two and three point shooting percentages, and they're dominant at rebounding. But they're also the league's worst team when it comes to turning the ball over, and their free throw percentage is atrocious (thanks Dwight). In other words, they have quality players who can score, but they can't move the ball. Defensively, they're sketchy and will lose all sense of what they're supposed to do. All in all, it's a recipe for disaster.

Obviously, the Lakers have some individual weak points too. World Peace was mentioned in the above Bballbreakdown video as taking more shots than he probably should, and while that might be true, he's the least of the Lakers' problems. Pau Gasol is being a facilitator for a team that desperately needs another scorer, and he's dealing with knee tendonitis, which will likely keep him out of tonight's game.

The team's bench is a complete joke at this point. Jodie Meeks and Darius Morris are good for hitting open threes, but that's about all. Chris Duhon has been capable statistically as a starter, but his assists are no better than Derek Fisher's, and he's hardly a threat defensively or offensively. Jordan Hill was a solid backup wing, but he's been spending time in D'Antoni's doghouse. Granted, most of these guys wouldn't be getting minutes if the Lakers had a complete roster, but the quality of players on the Lakers bench is really laughable, and ranks with the Trail Blazers' bench as one of the absolute worst in the league.

Is it even possible for the Lakers to win tonight? Well, yes. They've still got two guaranteed All-Stars on their team, and guys like Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison can still have great nights. The talent is definitely there, it's just a matter of how well the pieces are going to fit together on any given night, and whether an older player is still able to execute.

In general, the Thunder will have to pressure and disrupt the offense of the Lakers, but they'll also have to be mindful of how well the Lakers can find their open three point shooters. This is a Mike D'Antoni team after all, and he loves to have guys lurking in the corners. It's an aspect of the game that really killed the Thunder against the Nets on Tuesday.

Offensively, the Thunder will need to make sure they move the ball well and keep up the pace. As demonstrated in the above video, the Lakers aren't good at getting back and playing transition defense, nor are they good at keeping track of players on the wings. If the Thunder can consistently find the holes that the Laker defense generates, they should have no problem scoring.

Last, but not least, the Thunder need to take a lead and push it early. The Lakers have a tendency to give up if the game starts looking hopeless. I know I'm sounding like a hater right now, but if you look at the blowouts this team has endured, the number speak for themselves.

Anyway, tonight's game should be an easy win. Unless Howard, Bryant, and Jamison or World Peace can bust out a great performance, I don't see any way the Thunder are losing.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Los Angeles Lakers 91.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.