Coming off an impressive return for Pau Gasol to the Lakers starting lineup after missing all previous games, the Lakers (9-3) face off against the OKC Thunder (7-6). The Thunder pushed the Lakers to the limit during an early season match up in Oklahoma City, nearly beating the Gasol-less Lakers, losing 98-101 in OT. The Thunder have won four out of their previous six games and continue to develop well with the young talent of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way. The Lake Show is now all but complete with Gasol back in the lineup, and Kobe Bryant for one, feels confident that this squad is ready to now show their dominance.
“We have our squad now, Obviously, we can’t wait to get Luke back, but having Pau back is huge. We didn’t miss a beat, either. We have a bunch of guys that can post. We have the advantage.” Bryant said. (ESPN.com)
During their last game against Chicago, the impact of the two healthy seven footers was apparent, as Gasol and Bynum at times played volleyball back and forth, cleaning up the glass and scoring buckets at will in the paint. Bryant’s game however was impacted slightly as he could not comfortably post up his man with Pau and Drew clogging the middle. Kobe can still get to the post, however, will have to work a bit harder to find room and not be smothered by multiple defenders on his shot. As with many teams the Thunder come in fairly undersized at the center and power forward positions, especially when in comparison to the Lakers. Nenad Krstic and Etan Thomas will be responsible for trying to neutralize the towering Lakers post men, although their starting lineup only boasts Krstic at 7″0 and Jeff Green at 6″9, both players playing much smaller than their listed height. Here a few things to keep an eye on tonight as the Lakers continue on the road through the Thunder:
- The Windex Men: In their last meeting the Lakers logged nearly even rebounding and points in the paint totals. Tonight with the addition of Pau Gasol, the Lakers must look to take advantage of their clear height advantage, cleaning the glass and picking up at least a +10 in both statistical areas. Pau allows the Lakers to have a seven footer on the court at nearly all times, something that will be a clear advantage for Los Angeles.
- Bench? The Lakers bench will likely show up on every keys to the game for the foreseeable future as it still presents a major liability for this team. Farmar looked solid in the last outing, and Shannon Brown has shown more than promise. If the starters can build a sizable lead and allows both guards into the game early, it will be on them first and foremost to keep the tempo moving and the Thunder on their heels. Additionally, Lamar Odom has returned to his role as the leader of the second unit and will need to come up much bigger than he has previously if they hope to give Kobe,Pau, and Andrew continued late game rest.