The Oklahoma City Thunder will play the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season tonight in OKC. And to everyone’s surprise the Lakers are under the .500 mark at this point in the season.
The Lakers fired head coach Mike Brow just five games into the season after a 1-4 start and hired Mike D’Antoni. But the Lakers are just 4-5 since D’Antoni took over although the team hasn’t had point guard Steve Nash on the floor yet since the hiring.
The Lakers are hurting right now and don’t have much depth to make up for it. Nash and Steve Blake will be out tonight and there’s a chance Pau Gasol will miss the game as well.
Kobe Bryant – who just reached 30,000 career points in his last game – has played well against the Thunder recently and averaged 31.2 points per game against them in the playoffs last season.
The Lakers were unable to contain Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in that series though and it doesn’t look like that is going to change tonight. The Lakers are 8th in the NBA in defensive efficiency so far this season but the Thunder have been off the charts with an offensive efficiency rating of 110.9 so far this year.
Westbrook has been the one leading the charge of late for the Thunder and he always plays well against the Lakers including averaging 25.6 points per game against them in the playoffs a year ago. Chris Duhon will be the one tasked with slowing down Westbrook tonight, something that is just about impossible for him.
The Lakers’ big acquisition of Dwight Howard this summer hasn’t paid off yet this season as the big man doesn’t look totally healthy and has sputtered out of the gates. The Thunder are stocked with bigs that can play Howard too starting with center Kendrick Perkins who has put together a string of nice games over the last week for OKC.
Howard has been dreadful at the line this season shooting just 47 percent and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said he would consider a Hack-a-Dwight strategy late in a close game.
The Thunder and Lakers were the two most popular picks to come out of the West before the start of the season. While the Thunder have been thriving, LA has been doing anything but. Playing in OKC tonight does not seem like the time for the Lakers to come out on top.
The game will tip at 9:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.