The Thunder and Lakers meet in the third game of the season tonight, and the first 6PM Central Sunday start time of the season. OKC hopes to improve to 3-0 and actually win a game that’s not competitive in the final moments. The Lakers are hoping to continue to establish themselves as a legitimately competitive team after the Kobe Bryant retirement tour.
The Thunder are coming off one of the most ridiculous overtime games in recent memory. T.J. Warren, playing in a style reminiscent of Elgin Baylor, went for 30 points. Brandon Knight came off the bench for a semi-efficient 19 points. And Russell Westbrook, wanting to give his home fans a show, went for 51 points. While achieving a triple-double. No one has done so since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. KAREEM!?!
The Thunder could have easily won that game way earlier. Kanter only had 13 minutes against one of the worst interior defenses in the league. But that game wasn’t about proving that the Thunder were good. It was about showing the NBA that Westbrook was here, ready to have a good time and kick serious butt. We are all in awe.
The Lakers are coming off of one of the most
unsuccessful successful seasons in recent memory. As fans, we measure the Lakers by a very silly metric. We think that wins mean success. But in reality, attendance, fans, and viewers mean success. The Lakers were an awful basketball team last year, but everybody watched them. Opposing arenas sold out. Tickets to the last Laker game in OKC last year, at certain points in time, were just as expensive as tickets to the Spurs and Warriors games.
So the Lakers made money, and captured everybody’s attention. Meanwhile, their awful record allowed them to pick up superstar Brandon Ingram out of Duke. Ingram clearly has a lot of offensive ability for a small forward. Ingram’s athleticism and skill in shooting off the dribble allows him to thrive in one on one situations. I tend to think of Ingram as a very young Carmelo Anthony. But Ingram will have to significantly improve in terms of learning a defensive skillset, as well as utilizing screens and moving the ball. For now, Ingram will be subject to a ton of growing pains as he adjusts to the NBA game. Through the first two games, Ingram has a mere 5.5 PPG.
With a ton of cap room freed by Kobe’s retirement, the Lakers spent the off-season throwing money around in free agency. Aging defensive ace Luol Deng and big Timofey Mozgov should play significant roles in the Lakers’ rotation this year. Jose Calderon also has an outside shot to contribute as well, competing for time in the backup position with Marselino Huertas. But none of these guys are game changers. And it doesn’t look like D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson is ready to step up to an All-Star level. So this year will very much be a development year for the Lakers. Even the Laker coach, Bill Walton, is the youngest head coach in the NBA.
However, the Lakers have started off strong. A win over the Rockets and a competitive game with the Jazz has the Lakers sitting at 1-1 heading into tonight.
How tonight’s game will go
Easy win. The Lakers are a little bit better defensively, but they have absolutely nobody to lock down Westbrook. If the Lakers get hot from outside and Mozgov and Black hold their own down low though, this could get competitive. A great performance from Westbrook is almost certain, but I’m not sure whether the Thunder will keep it competitive or blow it wide open. I’ll err on the side of caution.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Los Angeles Lakers 108.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Jose Calderon (Probable), Brandon Ingram (Questionable), Cameron Payne (Out)
Time: 6 PM CDT
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: FSOK, NBALP