The buzz inside the Crypto.com Arena is sure to be electric and special as all those in attendance hope to see Los Angeles Lakers superstar surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday night.
James needs 36 points to break that record and while that is the biggest story going on, there is also a very important game to be played as the Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers are coming off a 2-3 road trip while the Thunder have lost three of their last four games. Most importantly, the Thunder sit a half game ahead of the Lakers in the standings so a win would see the Lakers climb closer to the play-in tournament.
This game is also big for the Lakers as guard Austin Reaves is expected to make his return to the lineup. Reaves has been out for over a month with a hamstring issue but had been arguably the Lakers’ most reliable role player and his return will finally put the team at full strength.
The Lakers and Thunder do have some similarities as both teams like to push the pace and do the majority of their damage in the paint. But with Anthony Davis back and looking like his old self, this is an area the Lakers should still be able to take advantage of.
Davis has posted back-to-back 30-point double-doubles and the Thunder quite simply have no one to deal with him, or LeBron for that matter, inside. The Thunder actually rank dead last in second-chance points allowed so the Lakers attacking the offensive glass should pay dividends.
The Thunder play small with rookie Jaylin Williams being the team’s lone big in the starting lineup, and veteran Mike Muscala, who is more of a perimeter player, coming off the bench. But for all the advantages the Lakers should have inside, the team has traditionally had all of the issues containing Thunder All-Star guard Shai Gilgious-Alexander.
Last year, Gilgious-Alexander infamously led the Thunder to two huge comeback victories over the Lakers and he has gone to another level this season, ranking sixth in the NBA in scoring at nearly 31 points per game. The Lakers must also be wary of the all-around play of Josh Giddey who has taken a leap this season and is a triple-double threat every night.
Regardless, this should be a night of celebration for a full-strength Lakers team as they should take care of business against the undersized Thunder. And hopefully, an all-time record will fall along the way.
Los Angeles Lakers (25-29) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-28)
7:00 p.m. PT, Feb. 7, 2023
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: LeBron James
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant,
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Shai Gilgious-Alexander
SG: Aaron Wiggins
SF: Josh Giddey
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Jaylin Williams
Key Reserves: Tre Mann, Kenrich Williams, Isaiah Joe, Mike Muscala, Darius Bazley
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