Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) at Los Angeles Lakers (31-19)
7:30 PM PST, March 29, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Thunder Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
Key Reserves: G James Harden, G Derek Fisher, F Nick Collison
Lakers Last Five: 3-2, W @ GS, L vs MEM, W vs POR, W @ DAL, L @ HOU.
Thunder Last Five: 4-1, W @ POR, W vs MIA, W vs MIN (2OT), W vs LAC, L @ UTA.
Tonight is almost assured to be an emotional evening for both the Lakers and their fans as Derek Fisher makes his return to Staples Center, this time as a member of the opposing team, which also happens to be the top team in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder. With just 16 games left in the season, it may be increasingly difficult for the Lakers to catch Oklahoma in the standings. However, a victory tonight against a premium team like Oklahoma could give the Lakers an added boost with the playoffs looming. The Thunder have rolled on all cylinders as the season has progressed, and even embarrassed the Heat at home in a matchup that some predicted for the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Lakers trend of benching continued as Andrew Bynum saw just five minutes on the floor in the second half, scoring one point in the Lakers recent victory over Golden State. Will this trend continue tonight against the toughest opponent out West?
Frontcourt: The Thunder are led by a prodigy, literally. Kevin Durant is just 23 years-old, and does not stop improving. He averages 27.8 points per game, but as many know is capable of getting blistering-hot and going off for upwards of 40 or 50 points. He is joined by fellow youngster Serge Ibaka, 22, who is a student of the game, but very good at what he does. An amazing shot-blocker and rebounder, Ibaka more than contributes his part. He can also shoot well, and finish at the rim. Then there is the always-stingy Kendrick Perkins, who is one of the strongest players in the NBA. He loves to play physical, and will do so at-will. Still, he is not the perfect center, lacking an offensive game.
Backcourt: The Thunder have a Laker at heart on the bench in Derek Fisher. While fans will be cheering heavily for the Lakers to reign victorious, they also will have a soft spot for a fan-favorite. Fisher comes off of the bench in relief of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, 23, is yet another young talent that the Thunder showcase. The local product from UCLA has really begun to light up scoreboards, boosting his scoring average to 24.2 points per game, six better than his career mark. When his head is into the game, he is the star on the court. He is paired with role player Thabo Sefolosha, a strong defender, good rebounder, but otherwise is not too much of a scoring threat.
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Thunder by a margin of 136-86. The Lakers have lost their last two meetings, including a 100-85 loss in Oklahoma on February 23rd.
- Ramon Sessions has been quite the welcome addition to the Lakers lineup. He has recently played (and defeated) the Thunder while with the Cavaliers, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
- Since acquiring Derek Fisher, the Thunder are 4-0. Their next five games are against playoff contenders, including matchups with the Heat and Bulls.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Slow Down Durant and Westbrook
The duo of scorers are imposing when good, and deadly when hot.
– Grow Up
Three-pointers should be taken by players that have a decent chance at converting them. Wasted shots and opportunities will only lead to your doom in the playoffs. Like the saying goes: “The way you practice is the way you will play.”
– Welcome Fisher Back (with a victory)
The Lakers were quite successful with Derek Fisher, and could continue to be so with him on the court despite him wearing the opposing jersey. This is a pivotal game where a victory is sorely needed.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 97, Thunder 94
Worst-Case: Thunder 110, Lakers 102