After a fairly impressive win on Sunday night against Atlanta, the Lakers left Los Angeles for the first time this season, and find themselves matched up with the young Oklahoma City Thunder. Both LA and Oklahoma City enter tonight’s game with a 2-1 record, but the Lakers are heavy favorites. If the Lakers want to get their first road win of the year they are going to have to play tough, however, because this Thunder team is loaded with lots of young talent that will feed off the energy of their home crowd. It will be important for the Lakers to be aggressive and physical early in the game to take the crowd out of it, and try and remove all energy from the arena. If Los Angeles is successful at establishing a half-court offense and playing solid defense, they should win this game. Here are a few more keys to tonight’s match-up between the Lakers and the Thunder:
- Half court offense: The Thunder are a young team that loves to run and push the tempo of the game. It will be important for the Lakers to remain calm and not get drawn into the fast-paced style that Oklahoma City loves to run. Watch for the Lakers to try and slow the pace of the game by pounding the ball inside to Bynum, Odom, or even Artest, in an attempt to take away the Thunder’s fast break opportunities.
- Limit Turnovers: Against any team that loves to run like Oklahoma City does, it is crucial to limit turnovers and fast break points. Young teams like the Thunder thrive off turnovers that lead to running opportunities that spark the crowd and the team, and the Lakers must control the ball better than they have the first three games of the season because Oklahoma City will capitalize on those mistakes.
- Not your 2008 Thunder: Perhaps the most important aspect of tonight’s game will be for the Lakers not to overlook the Thunder. Their record from a year ago, 23-59, does not accurately reflect how much talent this team really has. If the Lakers enter the game tonight thinking they have an easy win on their hands they will be gravely mistaken, and it will cost them dearly. Los Angeles must have the correct mindset entering the game, and cannot underestimate the Thunder if they want to leave town on a successful note.
- Kevin Durant: Against Atlanta and Dallas the Lakers gave up way too many open looks from long range, and it certainly cost them. They must do a better job of spreading the floor defensively tonight and covering open shooters, especially third year guard Kevin Durant. Durant is emerging as a star in the NBA and a sniper from long range. If the Lakers can control Durant, they can control the Thunder.
If the Lakers can meet all or most of these goals they should be able to emerge victorious. However, expect Oklahoma City to fight hard and give the Lakers more than most people are expecting. It should be an entertaining game as the Lakers look to start their first winning streak of the new campaign.
Los Angeles Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Tip off – 5:00 PST
TV: NBA TV, KCAL
Radio: 710 ESPN (NEW Home of the Los Angeles Lakers)