The Los Angeles Lakers are in town tonight, one evening after their historical nemesis the Boston Celtics came into the Chesapeake Arena. The Lakers are coming off of a huge win last night against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. After a few weeks of trying to establish their identity, the Lakers have now won five of their past six and are looking to let the young Thunder know that they're not ready to cede the West yet.
OKC is coming into tonight's game with an 11 game home winning streak on the line and are averaging 108 points per game during that stretch. Last night, they overwhelmed the defensively oriented Celtics team in the first half, hanging a whopping 72 on them through the first 24 minutes of play. OKC will be tested again tonight, as the Lakers too are playing stout defense. Their defensive strategy rests on the ability of their two big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The duo do not allow points at the rim and are the NBA's best at rebounding the ball. The Thunder will need to take good high percentage shots to neutralize this rebounding disadvantage. However, the Thunder have inside muscle of their own. In a way, their front line was built to contend with the Lakers, but Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka will have their hands full.
The Lakers lack the offensive fire power of years past, but Kobe Bryant is still having a strong season. However, I think it would serve the Thunder well to keep him as a jump shooter and not allow him to become a playmaker where he can get Bynum and Gasol involved in the offense. Against Dallas, Kobe made two outstanding passes in the waning moments of a close game that enabled the Lakers to hold on. If OKC can turn the game into a scoring duel between the two teams, OKC wins out because they have two offensive stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, while the Lakers only have one.
The game should be very competitive and entertaining. I think that if the Thunder can maintain better focus than last night and do a good job on the boards, their offensive talent will be too much for the Lakers to handle.