The Los Angeles Lakers finally appeared to have some momentum before an ugly loss to the Memphis Grizzlies without Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks. Now, they have a chance to quickly bounce back as they face the Oklahoma City Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Thunder came into the year as one of the worst teams in the league. Despite that, they are 2-0 against the Lakers this season, after L.A. blew double-digit leads in both of the first two matchups. A third loss against the Thunder — this one to drop them below .500 — would be a disastrous result.
Because of that, this is as big of a must-win as a December game against a lottery opponent can possibly be. And it’s on the star duo of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to clean up a messy performance in Memphis as Anthony Davis has been ruled out with left knee soreness.
The big man tested out his knee pregame and was unable to go, so he is sitting out his second game of the season.
The Lakers turned the ball over 22 times in Thursday’s loss with 15 of those coming from James, Davis and Westbrook, so that is surely something they will have to clean up.
Davis stressed that the Lakers need to start playing like underdogs regardless of opponent. L.A. is favored by just five points, and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives them just a 50.9% chance to win against the Thunder. A team with the talent of the Lakers caliber should never be that close to an organization actively trying to lose games.
Given the results of the first two matchups between these teams, the Thunder have proven that they are not afraid of the Lakers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 and 28 points in those games, and keeping him in check is one of the main keys to derailing the Thunder.
The Lakers’ next four games are all against teams that they arguably should beat. However, they have not yet had a four-game win streak, meaning something drastic will need to change for them to take care of business the way they need to.
It starts with getting a convincing win against a Thunder team that they have had on the ropes in two separate games, only to falter in the final minutes. Then, they can move forward towards trying to secure their first legitimate win streak of the season.
Lakers (13-13) vs. Thunder (8-16)
5:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 10, 2021
Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SF: LeBron James
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Josh Giddey
SF: Lu Dort
PF: Darius Bazley
C: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Key Reserves: Kenrich Williams, Derrick Favors, Tre Mann, Mike Muscala