The Los Angeles Lakers are playing their last home game of the 2021-22 season, hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
The Lakers will again play without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn. L.A. confirmed before the game that James would miss the remainder of the season to focus on ankle rehab.
Interestingly, the Thunder’s list of absentees is even longer. Darius Bazley, Lu Dort, Derrick Favors, Josh Giddy, Ty Jerome, Mike Muscala, Enrich Williams, and — likely — Tre Mann will all watch the clash from the sidelines.
Even though the Lakers have nothing to play for, they might still come out with more determination to win the game (considering it’s the last time they play in front of the home crowd until October) than Oklahoma City.
The Thunder are nearing the finish line of the two-way race with the Detroit Pistons for a worse record — and better draft lottery odds. Oklahoma City currently ranks 27th and will enter the clash 1.0 games ahead of the Pistons and just as much behind the Indiana Pacers in the overall standings.
Hence, individual performances are likely what viewers should look forward to the most ahead of the Friday matchup. Talen Horton-Tucker set a few new career highs in his 40-point performance the previous night — and will likely try to put on a show again to prove his value ahead of the likely Lakers rebuild in the summer.
Then there is the Thunder’s Zavier Simpson, who spent a few months with the Lakers two years ago. Simpson first worked out for the Purple and Gold in the 2020 offseason and then signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in November of that year, before being waived the following month.
Oklahoma City plucked the Michigan alum from the G League and penned him to a 10-day hardship deal earlier this week. Since then, Simpson has shown off his Rajon Rondo-like skillset, averaging 8.0 assists and 7.0 points on 31.8% from the field and a round 0% from deep over his first two NBA games — while clocking in a monstrous 41 minutes per night.
And, the 6-foot guard went viral after his debut, sinking perhaps the smoothest hook shot the NBA has seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Crypto.com Arena could see some fireworks after all on Friday night — who said meaningless games can’t be fun?
Lakers (31-49) vs. Thunder (24-56)
7:30 p.m. PT, April 7, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Malik Monk
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Wenyen Gabriel, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Augustin, Kent Bazemore, Mason Jones
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Zavier Simpson
SG: Vit Krejci
SF: Georgios Kalaitzakis
PF: Jaylen Hoard
C: Isaiah Roby
Key Reserves: Melvin Frazier Jr., Lindy Waters III, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
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