Written by: Devin Uglund
The Lakers post All-Star break revival is underway, and thus far, it’s been smooth sailing. The purple and gold are 3-0 since the break, all great wins against good teams. That disgraceful loss to the Cavaliers is somewhat forgotten, as the Lakers host the OKC Thunder (36-21) Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
The Lakers past three wins have cast aside many of the doubts that followed the dreadful end to their seven game road trip. A big win against Atlanta, an overtime nail-biter against Portland, and Friday nights dismantling of the other team in Los Angeles, breathe some life into a purple and gold resurgence.The recent play of this Laker squad has been inspired. The questions surrounding the teamsí age, ability and desire have all been swept under the rug, until the next loss. But if the Lakers keep up the selfless, team-oriented play, that loss wonít come against the Thunder on Sunday.
Oklahoma City brings in a new look to Staples, however, in what could be described as the biggest trade deadline deal other than ‘Melo to the Knicks, the Thunder acquired C Kendrick Perkins and G Nate Robinson from the Celtics in exchange for F Jeff Green and C Nenad Kristic. The Lakers are going to have to wait to see what kind of impact Perkins can have with the up-and-coming Thunder, as he will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks with a MCL sprain.
Reigning NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant leads this Thunder squadsí young, athletic and high octane offense. Durant, who leads the NBA with 28.6 PPG, is a guy who may be impossible to contain. His ability to score in so many different ways, and his 6’11” frame, creates a matchup problem against any team. Russell Westbrook, coming off of his first All-Star selection, is one of the best young point guards in the NBA. His ability to get out in transition and finish emphatically in traffic really energizes this team.
The Thunder, who have lost their last two games, are hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Durant will get his, but you must limit Westbrook and Harden. Ron Artest will most likely be guarding KD, and he needs to make Duran’s looks as tough as possible. Kobe will check Westbrook as usual, and he will employ his patented containment defense, and dare Westbrook to shoot jumpers.
2. Get back on defense. OKC is one of the best transition teams, and they rely on transition points to get an offensive flow.
3. Win the battle of the boards. If the Lakers can control the boards, they will slow down the explosive Thunder offense.