Game 64 Preview: Thunder vs. Lakers


Mar 3, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Wesley Johnson (11) celebrates with shooting guard Jodie Meeks (20) after he hit the game winning shot late in the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. The Lakers won the game 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of a week rife with humiliation and disappointment, the Lakers prepare to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Los Angeles this evening. Following a shock one-point victory in Portland on Monday night, the team has gone from bad to worse including matches that saw us experience both the worst loss in franchise history and a total defensive collapse against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. A desperately needed four day rest awaits the team after tonight’s game, although the best in the west stands firmly in their way before the downtime.

If there is nothing to fear but fear itself, we should still cower about the prospect of meeting Kevin Durant. The small forward has truly embraced the race to the MVP award against LeBron James and hasn’t cooled down since his absolutely monster start to 2014. He’s averaging 31.8ppg with 7.7reb and 5.5ast to complement his stat-line. Better yet, he’s scored 33.8ppg in his last five off .519% of his field goals. He’s a monster to contain and against a system with seemingly no defensive strategy, the “Slim Reaper” could treat tonight’s match-up like a shootaround.

Mar 6, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Glen Davis (0) defends against Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The task of slowing down Durant will more than likely be delegated to either Ryan Kelly or Wesley Johnson, this is going to be a fun night isn’t it folks? In the past three games, the Lakers have conceded a ridiculous 408 points, 99 of which have come from behind the arc. The sheer lack of discipline and assertion within the defence has been enough to make any fan of basketball shiver and the potential dismemberment from the Thunder tonight could, or indeed is going to be, absolutely brutal.

Time for a much needed injection of positivity into the article and, to be truthful, it’s hard to find stats to make you smile. However, the strength and vivacity of our own Spanish warrior has certainly added some endurance to what may well be and long and daunting trek to closing night. Pau Gasol really is showing flashes of his game of old and whilst this could be his final year in the City of Angeles, he’s giving us a swan song to remember. On the season, Pau is averaging 17.7ppg and ousting his career per game average in rebounds of 9.2 with 9.8rpg. He’s been able to maintain a decent run of health and his numbers have come to match. Whilst some of his defensive solidity has gone astray, Gasol is still working well on the other end of the court, or at least well by the standards of the rest of the team. He and a number of other players are giving the fans figures to route for. Whatever transpires in the closing weeks of the season, we’ll have some bastions to support. You can count on that.

Mar 5, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) handles the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly though, good will isn’t going to be enough to hold back a team that is as efficient as the Thunder are. Russell Westbrook is now starting to find his feet after returning from injury, a perfect testament to his form being his scoring of the second fastest triple-double in NBA history vs the Sixers four days ago. His combination of intense athleticism and supreme speed and explosiveness will more than certainly provide a challenge for the team tonight. Electric, “TNT” guards such as Monta Ellis and John Wall have been dominant against the Lakers defence this year and it will be frightening to see what the UCLA alumnus can do against his hometown team.

Tonight will be dirty. There will be blood. However you’re approaching the final days of the season, they don’t look good. The return windows for Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Nick Young are getting increasingly smaller and a tortuous run-in to closing night makes the coming weeks seem almost unsurpassable.

The end is drawing close and the tank is almost complete. Whilst you may want the team to lose for the benefit of the future, cheer them on tonight. If the roster needs anything right now, it’s support and whatever the score, we’re still always be the Lakers.