Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) vs. The Los Angeles Lakers (31-19)
Time: 9:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Turner Network Television Only
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KMEZ 106.7 FM
Enemy Blog(s): Silver Screen and Roll, With Malice, Forum Blue and Gold
Previous Meeting(s): Feb. 23 (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Derek Fisher has been a Laker for the vast majority of his career. Sure, he had a couple of seasons with the Warriors and a historic season with the Jazz. But when his playing days are done, everyone will remember him in purple and gold.
So it's going to be strange....surreal, even, to see him play against the Lakers while wearing Thunder blue. An epic isolation play against Bryant is unlikely, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him try to get a few vengeance threes against his former team.
Overall, the Lakers have been a solidly consistent team. They're not the championship-level Lakers of old, but they can still get a huge amount of production out of their big three. Unfortunately, those are the only three players they can still get production out of. Metta World Peace can still anchor down the SF spot defensively, but his three point accuracy and offensive effectiveness is in the toilet, even moreso than that of Derek Fisher. Journeyman Ramon Sessions appears to be a serviceable answer at PG....at least, moreso than Steve Blake. But his inclusion in the starting lineup only kills the effectiveness of the Lakers' bench. Matt Barnes is now the most effective scoring force off of the pine, with the rest of the bench featuring has-beens and never will bes. (I still love ya, Troy! Warriors for life!)
On top of all of this, internal drama has hit the Laker locker room once more. Mike Brown benched Kobe Bryant this Sunday for losing his head during crunchtime in a matchup against the Grizzlies. Later, on Tuesday, Andrew Bynum shot a three against Golden State, which he was promptly benched for. After the incident, he claimed he would rectify the situation by shooting more threes.
Lastly, the Thunder managed to utterly destroy the Lakers earlier in the season, and there's no reason to think they can't do it again. Kendrick Perkins was made to guard Bynum, as he's one of the best back to the basket defenders in the league. Kobe will get points, but he was effectively guarded by Westbrook and Harden last time, and the Thunder didn't even have to resort to pressure. Sessions and Gasol might make things interesting, but the Thunder's bench will destroy the Lakers bench in every single way. Thus, I'm predicting a relatively easy win for the Thunder tonight.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Los Angeles Lakers 101