The Los Angeles Lakers have lost three of the last four games, and will try to break out of their slump by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder at home.
The Lakers have had problems with teams that have superstars. Last game against the Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler was able to explode for 40 points, seven rebounds and six assists while shooting 60% percent from the field and hitting 12 of his 14 free throws. The Bulls were also able to get major contributions from Isiah Canaan, Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic.
Canaan provided 17 points to give the Bulls the spark they needed off the bench. Rondo had a typical game, by his standards, scoring only 4 points, but dishing out 12 assists and picking up nine rebounds. Finally, Mirotic gave the Bulls 15 points and 15 rebounds, which helped the Bulls outrebound the Lakers by 19. The Lakers allowed both the Bulls superstar and roles players to excel, which cannot happen if they want to win games.
The Thunder come to Los Angeles on a slump of their own, losing five of their last seven games. The Thunder have shown the need for Westbrook to dominate games if they want a chance to win. The Thunder are third in the NBA in rebounding, which provides them an advantage in one of the Lakers biggest weak spots.
The Lakers will need their backcourt to step up defensively if they want to win tonight as they must face one of the league’s top players in Russell Westbrook. The Lakers backcourt has seen improvement on the defensive end, most notably from Nick Young, but still need to see more. Their biggest challenge will be forcing Westbrook to be inefficient and not allowing him to get his teammates involved.
Also, the Lakers need Jordan Clarkson will need to step up offensively if they want to win. Last game, Clarkson didn’t make a shot until the fourth quarter and ended up shooting one for 12 on the night. D’Angelo Russell has been dealing with an issue with his knee for the past couple of games. Russell did not play aggressively and settled for jump shots against the Bulls. If Russell’s shot is falling, it is easier for him to get other people involved, which makes the Lakers a tough team to guard.
The Thunders guards, Westbrook and Victor Oladipo, are both very athletic and can create opportunities for others and themselves. Westbrook and Oladipo are going to attack the basket any opportunity they get. Both guards are a;sp excellent at creating turnovers and turning them into easy points.
Westbrook has been tough to stop this season, averaging 31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 9.6 rebounds with five triple-doubles in 13 games. Last game against the Lakers, Westbrook stayed true to his season averages by scoring 33 points, dishing out 16 assists and picking up 11 rebounds.
Oladipo might not be forcing himself into the record books like Westbrook, but he is still having a good season, averaging 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. In his last three games against the Pacers, Nets and Rockets he has averaged 23.0 points 6.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists. The Laker guards need to force him to take tough shots and force him off the three-point line.
The Lakers have gotten a lot of production out of their frontcourt this season. The Lakers frontcourt will need to box out the Thunder’s big men and force the Thunder to one shot possessions. The Lakers like to go small, playing Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle together, which makes it harder to rebound the ball.
Randle has shown improvement in all aspects of his game, even in his jump shot, and had success against the Thunder in their first meeting of the season with 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Randle will need to crash the offensive and defensive glass for the Lakers to win this game.
Brandon Ingram is a player that has been quiet so far this season but has shown flashes of his extreme talent. Ingram provides high energy off the bench and uses his length to his advantage of both ends of the floor and is often put on the opposing teams best offensive player when he first enters the game.
If Ingram defends Westbrook, Ingram will need to give Westbrook room to shoot and not allow him an easy lane to the basket. Also, Ingram needs to work on hitting open shots; he is only shooting 38.3 % overall and 20.8% from the three-point line.
The Thunder’s frontcourt consists of Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis. Adams is the most notable player on the Thunder’s frontline, averaging 9.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks. In the last game against the Lakers, Adams had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Adams is more than just his stats. He provides the Thunder with ruggedness and does the dirty work such as setting screens, boxing out and wearing you down physically throughout the game. Adams and Westbrook set the tone for this Thunder team.
Roberson and Sabonis have similar responsibilities in that they need to play defense, make open shots, and rebound the ball. These are the types of players the Lakers can’t allow to have big nights. Enes Kanter is also one of the Thunder’s top weapons even though he comes off the bench as he punishes second units on the glass and on the block.
Keys to Victory:
Crash the Glass:
The Lakers are not going to out-rebound a lot of teams in the NBA, but they cannot afford to be dominated on the glass. The Thunder are an elite rebounding team so the Lakers will need to focus this aspect of the game and at least be competitive on the glass if they want to win.
Defend the Others:
Against the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers not only allowed Jimmy Butler to dominate, but they also allowed Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan to have big games. This can’t happen if the Lakers want to be successful, they must either let the start get off and contain the role players, or vice versa. They’ve been allowing both and that is unacceptable.
Force Westbrook to be Inefficent:
Westbrook is a top three talent in the NBA because he does not have a lot of holes in his game. Westbrook’s biggest weakness is his long range jump shot and his shot selection and the Lakers must do their best to keep him on the perimeter and off the foul line as Westbrook can be inefficient if you let him.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-7) Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-6)
7:30 P.M. PST, November 22nd, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Andre Roberson
PF: Domantas Sabonis
C: Steven Adams
Key Reserves: Enes Kanter, Joffrey Lauvergne, Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Tarik Black