Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
PG D’Angelo Russell is likely going to see an immediate uptick in scoring opportunities with the Lakers’ leading scorer Lou Williams being traded to the Houston Rockets. In 42 games this season, Russell is averaging 14.2 points, 4.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He is not that great of a shooter, making only 39.2% of his shots from the field and 34.9% from three, but he is still a capable scorer when called upon. Russell missed the first game against the Thunder, but he led the Lakers in scoring in the second matchup with 20 points, which was highlighted by his 4/9 shooting from beyond the arc. Russell Westbrook is head and shoulders above D’Angelo Russell, so Westbrook needs to take advantage of the matchup when possible.
Keys to the Game
- Take Care of Business: Both of these teams play and even look differently than they did when they met twice earlier in the season. The Lakers are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, and they just traded away their leading scorer, while the Thunder has struggled lately with Enes Kanter out due to injury. However, there is a lot of enthusiasm in Oklahoma City following the arrival of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from Chicago. Add to the excitement the fact that Kanter is possible to return tonight, and Thunder fans have high expectations for the final 25 games of the season. This game should be fairly easy for the Thunder as a weak Laker squad comes into Chesapeake Energy Arena, but Oklahoma City needs to take it seriously and come away with a win to kick off the return from the All-Star Break.
- Run in Transition: Oklahoma City has excelled in running a fast-paced game this season by averaging 17.1 fast break points per game (3rd in the NBA), while Los Angeles is terrible at defending in transition, allowing 15.5 fast break points per game (29th in the NBA). In the two matchups so far this season, the Thunder has scored 26 and 17 points in transition, so they should look to get out and run the break and put pressure on the Laker transition defense.
- Look Inside: The Thunder’s offense is heavily dependent upon their ability to score in the paint, where they average 49.3 points per game (2nd in the NBA), but they shoot a miserable 32.1% (29th in the NBA) from three. Acquiring Doug McDermott in a trade with the Chicago Bulls should help improve the Thunder’s three-point shooting woes, but he is not expected to play tonight. Oklahoma City has some guys that are capable of knocking down shots from deep, but the Thunder desperately needs to work from the inside out. If they can establish an inside presence, open looks from deep may open up and give Oklahoma City opportunities that otherwise would not be there.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.