Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Time: 8:30 P.M. CST
Broadcast: TNT, FSOK
Counterpart: Silver Screen and Roll
For the second time in the last two weeks, the Thunder will be matched up against the Los Angeles Lakers. Once again the Lakers will be without their superstar Forward LeBron James, who will be out again with his groin injury for at least another two games.
From Lakers MR: LeBron James was evaluated by team medical staff and physicians today. James, who will not travel with the team on the upcoming two-game road trip, has been cleared to return to practice commencing next week, and progress towards a return to game play thereafter.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 16, 2019
In the team’s first meeting on January 2nd, the Thunder managed to pull away in the final five minutes in order to capture the victory. Paul George finished with 37 points, adding to what has already been an career year for him.
Even though the Lakers are 4-7 in James’ absence, Oklahoma City can ill-afford to take them lightly. Oklahoma City just saw a Hawks team, who sits at the bottom of the eastern conference standings, blow them out on Tuesday night.
These are the keys to victories for the Thunder on Thursday night.
1. Win the Rebounding Battle
In three of their four victories without James, the Lakers have won the rebounding battle. Their 47.1 rebounds per game ranks them fifth in the NBA, and with that rebounding, Los Angeles plays best when they are in transition, running the floor.
Steven Adams and the other Thunder big men will have their hands full with the trio of bigs coach Luke Walton plays: Javale McGee, Tyson Chandler, and Ivica Zubac.
Winning the rebound battle — especially defensive rebounds — will be key in this game, and it comes at a particularly critical juncture. The Thunder, leading the league in rebounding throughout the year, have had teams control them on the glass, which has in part led to some of their worst losses this season.
2. Slow Down the Pace
As mentioned earlier, the Lakers are best when they’re in transition and playing at a fast pace. Transition allows Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to play to their strengths.
Coach Billy Donovan and the Thunder’s objective should be to make the Lakers score in the half court as much as possible. All year the Thunder have been an stout defense team, Ranking top ten in points allowed per game and first in turnovers forced per game. Making Los Angeles score in the half court makes it harder for them score efficiently.
In addition, the Lakers are 28th in 3-point FG% and dead last in free throw percentage. OKC must play to their defensive strengths and force LA to play to their worst offensive skills in order to turn tonight’s game into a much-needed victory and confidence boost.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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