Tip-Off: 9:30 P.M. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Not too many teams are able to do this, but the Oklahoma City Thunder dismantled the Golden State Warriors om Tuesday night. The Thunder bursted out of the gate with 42 points in the first quarter and never looked back. Playing against the NBA’s best and brightest has not been a problem for this OKC Thunder team. It has been sizing up to teams with lesser records than them. Which brings us to the matchup at hand tonight. The Los Angeles Lakers (22-31) will host the Thunder (31-24) as the Thunder look to conclude thier California road trip with a dub. Here are my four keys in order to make that happen:
First and foremost, OKC may be again shorthanded:
Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook remain questionable for tonight’s game against the Lakers. Both did a little in shootaround, but will see how they feel closer to game time.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 8, 2018
4) OKC Starting 5 vs LAL Starting 5
Normally, this part of the preview is pretty clear cut. Barring an injury or a roster move, the starting five for any NBA is consistent throughout. Today was not any ordinary day in basketball as the NBA Trade Deadline shifted around the Lakers roster. With Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. no longer sporting the purple and gold, it appears it will be a rough night ahead for this below average Lakers team. Coming off a 34/9/9 night against the NBA’s best team, expect Russell Westbrook (if he plays) to shine bright in Tinseltown as the thin frame of Brandon Ingram will have little to no chance of stopping Russ as he will have his way in the paint all night.
Josh Huestis will most likely get the nod again to start as head coach Billy Donovan hopes to find some sort of recipe for his shooting guard position. KCP will oppose him for the Lakers. Don’t expect any 60 point outbursts the two guard spot tonight. Josh Hart might possibly get the start again as he impressed in his start against the Phoenix Suns in his last game. Paul George might possibly be coming off his best all around performance all year and looks to better that tonight.
The one matchup L.A. might have the edge over is at the power forward spot. Carmelo Anthony nursing a bruised ankle, already has issues defending players down in the low post to begin with. Julius Randle, Anthony’s matchup for tonight, if he plays, could show up Melo tonight as he dropped 21 PTS in his last game. Finally, we have a disappointing Brooke Lopez against a breakout season from Steven Adams. Enough said here. Look for OKC to dominate their matchups tonight.
3) New Look Lakers
In a blockbuster trade made this afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers traded PG Jordan Clarkson and PF Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a 1st round pick. With Thomas and Frye clearly not being able to be in uniform tonight, expect to see rookie Kyle Kuzma and forward Corey Brewer log up minutes off the bench for the Lakers. This only benefits the Thunder bench as the Lakers lose their two best options (next to Kuzma) off the bench. Jermai Grant, Raymond Felton, and Alex Abrines could recieve added floor time tonight to expose the lack of prodcution coming off the L.A. bench.
2) Thunder can’t play down to Lakers
A 20 point blowout win against the best team in the NBA, to end a four game losing streak, and gain momentum back in your favor? Sounds pretty good right? Don’t let that get to your head as the Thunder have constantly played down to sub .500 teams all season long. They proved that very same point to this Lakers team just last week. The Thunder lost a hard fought 108-104 game at home to the Lakers. Coach Donovan points to the level of effort as the main issue in this particular situation. Although this Lakers team might be piss-poor in alot of areas, they’re a quick and athletic team that runs the floor well. Any slip ups to them in transition could prove fatal tonight for the Thunder.
1) Paul George needs to continue his two-way excellence
In Tuesday’s 125-105 win over Golden State, Paul George could do no wrong. He usually never does to begin with, but his biggest impact was on the defensive end. After his 6 steals and his ability to hold Klay Thompson to just 12 PTS, many were wondering if that earned him Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) honors. On the other side of the ball, George was equally as impressive. 48% from the floor, 6/11 from 3, and 10/12 from the charity stripe, led to a 38 point performance overall. George showed to all why he deserved to be more than just a injury replacement all star. Tonight, he looks to abuse a young and careless Lakers team on the defensive end of the ball and also look to create isolated opprotunities against below average defenders in Hart and Kuzma all night long.