Lakers Face the Thunder in a Potential Western Conference Finals Matchup

Thunder Projected Starting Line-up:

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins

Key Reserves: James Harden, Nazr Mohammed

The Lakers return home and hope to rebound after a four game skid when they host the Thunder, a potential western conference foe.

Frontcourt: Since acquiring Perkins and Mohammed the Thunder front line is starting to shape up into a fearsome group. The interior defense has improved. Wiith Perkins/Mohammed anchoring the center, Ibaka has been flying in from the weakside and blocking everything in sight. Since Perkins has been in the lineup, Ibaka has blocked a godlike 3.2 shots per game. There still isn’t much offensive production out of the Thunder frontline, but that is because they mostly run offensive sets for the backcourt players.

Backcourt: As a unit, the Thunder backcourt is one of the most complete in the entire NBA. They have a scorer (Durant), distributor/slasher (Westbrook), defender (Sefolosha), three point specialist (Cook) and an budding star (Harden). Westbrook and Durant have consistently played well this year – collectively they account for 48% of the Thunder’s point total. The only other double digit scorer is Harden at 12.1 points per game. Nobody in the West will want to face the Thunder backcourt come playoff time.

Keys to Lakers Victory:
Rebound: Bynum has been doing a stellar job on the boards lately and he needs to keep it up. The rest of the Lakers are lacking in team rebounding and fundamentals like boxing out have not been consistent. This is especially noticeable during missed boxed outs on free throw attempts which lead to second chance points by opposing teams.

Defend, Defend, Defend: Give nothing, take everything. I’d like to see the Lakers take this mental approach in their defensive assignments today. The Lakers defense has been utterly unimpressive in the past four games. Fisher/Blake will need to focus their attention on staying in front of Westbrook and limit his penetration. Artest will have his hands full defending Durant who is one of the leagues most prolific scorers. And let’s hope Kobe doesn’t take Harden too lightly – last time Harden had 14 points on 54% shooting (Pssst… he only averages 43% from the floor).

I am not freaking out despite the Lakers 4 game losing streak, however it would sure be nice to finally get a W. It would be especially sweet to send a message to one of the league’s up and coming teams that the Lakers are not ready to give up their reign on the throne.

Lakers’ Injuries: Theo Ratliff

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