The Los Angeles Lakers’ contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder is an absolutely pivotal game as the Lakers continue to try and climb into the playoffs. But they will face an uphill battle as Anthony Davis is joining LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell on the injury report and will miss the contest.
Davis put forth a herculean effort in trying to carry the Lakers against the Memphis Grizzlies, finishing with 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. But the Lakers simply couldn’t get enough elsewhere to overcome Memphis and now it will need to be a team effort to come out with a win in one of the most important games of the year. Davis is listed as out due to the right foot stress injury that he missed significant time with this season.
The Thunder are just below the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and already won the first meeting of the season, famously spoiling LeBron’s record-setting night where he became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. But Oklahoma City will also be without their best player in All-Star guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, who is in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols.
With Davis now sidelined as well, everyone will need to step up. Either Wenyen Gabriel or Mo Bamba will likely replace Davis in the starting lineup, but both should get big minutes. Gabriel’s energy will be important as the Thunder are a young, explosive team who play extremely hard. Bamba now becomes the Lakers’ best rim protector, an important factor considering the Thunder are one of the best teams at scoring in the paint.
The Lakers got great contributions from their bench in Memphis, particularly Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV, but the starters underwhelmed. Troy Brown Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt combined to shoot just 2-of-14 while Dennis Schroder and Malik Beasley were just decent.
The playmaking of Schroder and Reaves now becomes even more important as they will be responsible for setting up nearly everyone on the team. The one-on-one abilities of Walker and Rui Hachimura will also come into play as both will need to step up into bigger roles. And the Lakers absolutely can not have a repeat of their 26-turnover performance in Memphis.
Most importantly, the Lakers will have to give maximum effort on defense. Even without Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder have some players capable of going off in triple-double threat Josh Giddey and promising rookie wing Jalen Williams. Offense might be hard to come by with the team’s three best players out, but with a strong defensive performance, there is still a chance the Lakers can leave with a win. But make no mistake, the margin for error is zero.
Los Angeles Lakers (25-29) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-28)
5:00 p.m. PT, March 1, 2023
Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Mo Bamba
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Josh Giddey
SG: Isaiah Joe
SF: Lu Dort
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Jaylin Williams
Key Reserves: Tre Mann, Kenrich Williams, Dario Saric, Aaron Wiggins, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
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