Preview & Chat: The OKC Thunder

Kurt —  February 24, 2009

Records: Lakers 46-10 (1st in the West) Thunder 13-43 (14th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.2 (1st in league) Thunder 103.7 (27th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (7th in league) Thunder 110.3 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Thunder Russell Westbrook, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Jeff Green

Lakers Coming In: Lots of concern around Lakers nation about the minutes Pau Gasol is racking up — in the Lakers last 10 games he is averaging 42 minutes, in the overtime game the other night he played 49. Is that too many for a guy coming off the Summer Olympics that the Lakers need to be ready to go come playoff time?

It’s a Catch 22: Do you want home court advantage? Because, play more Powell (who has been solid but is not Gasol) or DJ Mbenga and the Lakers lose games like that last one. Or, you play hard now and maybe get some rest later in the season (and remember, the first round of the playoffs has a lot of days off in there). Phil Jackson told the OC Register’s Kevin Ding he is thinking of taking door number two. He is not going to start cutting back Gasol.

“No, not yet,” he said after Sunday’s victory against Minnesota. “Maybe in April at some point we may watch it. We’ve shut down players before and gave them a week off here and there — players that we thought needed the rest at times during the end of the regular season. But at this particular point, we’re still pushing on.”

Gasol is not 35, he’s young and as long as he is holding up, I think you need to ride the train. What would be nice is a couple of blowouts so he and Kobe and Fish can get some minutes cut back.

And for those thinking we need to get someone or should not have let Mihm go: There is nobody who replaces Pau or gives you better minutes than Powell out there. Did you see Mihm play? I like Mikki Moore as a solid backup guy (he will fit in well and help some in Boston) but he is no better than Powell. And he was the best guy out there. The Lakers roster is the Lakers roster, and frankly it is good enough to get everything we as fans and the team wants this year.

The Thunder Coming In: Two guys have seen the Thunder in person recently, our own Darius and Brett from Fanhouse. Both of them sent me some thoughts on OKC, which I will paraphrase here:

First, Kevin Durant is the real deal. Brett said he seems to score quiet points in the sense that he does not just take over a game the way Kobe or LeBron will, but he scores seemingly every time he touches the ball. Darius said he is already one of the elite scorers in the game: “his length and long stride enable him to get to basket easily against players that play him too closely. He is also rebounding much better and filling the lane on the break quite well. He’s getting to the foul line and shooting the 3 ball well too.” Darius suggests if you work to deny him the ball you can do it, he doesn’t fight for it enough.

Former Bruin Russell Westbrook amazes everyone with his athleticism, but he may really be a two forced to run the point right now. Darius thought he looked better as the two with Watson on the floor, but even at the point Westbrook will make amazing plays and can finish at the rim on the break or in the half court. But, he’s a rookie and makes a lot of rookie mistakes and turnovers as well.

Darius on Jeff Green: “Jeff Green is a bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic Luke Walton. He was crafty in the post and showed a nice jumper too. He was physical on the boards and was just a right place, right time type of player.

And one final note from Brett: But Scott Brooks seems like a tortured soul who can’t figure out how to get the most or best out of his young team, so they lose a lot, and lose big. OKC is a likable team with a future, but especially against teams like the Lakers, the future is most certainly anything but now.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers have a big advantage in the paint, but in the last meeting did not really exploit that. Do it tonight and they should win big.

Another big advantage for the Lakers, from Darius looking at OKC: SG is their weakness and it’s a big one. They need to address this in the draft or get a steadier PG and move Westbrook there…. Maybe Thabo will help them eventually, but he didn’t look ready against the W’s. I really think this is a team that could use a Bowen/Raja Bell type that could guard the other teams wings while also shooting the ball from the corner.

Um, I think the Lakers have a pretty good two guard. He could have a big night.

The Lakers have to not give up the fast break points and easy buckets to this team. The Thunder struggle in the half court but can hang if you let them get Durant and Westbrook and Watson out and running. This team has athletes, you can’t get into that game with them and blow them out.

Where you can watch: 5 pm start out West on KCAL 9 and online at your favorite locations.

216 responses to Preview & Chat: The OKC Thunder

  1. the other Stephen February 26, 2009 at 5:22 am

    i woke up this morning to the clippers-celtics news. the world smells like a bouquet of happy roses.

  2. What are Devin Harris’ stats if you put a double team on him. 10 points, 0 assists, that’s what I say. The other players on that team don’t have the firepower to do anything. Of course, the better teams know to single team with a good defender, let him score his 20 at most, and beat the Nets by 15 in the process. Espn is trying to hype another player.

  3. hey fellas, found something:

    it´s a follow up from pelton to the new york times article by michael lewis.
    pretty interesting!

  4. Paul, Harris gets a little ESPN hype because he is in the NYC Metro area, but he also is a legit top quality PG. He is a borderline All Star guy, and he is very quick and can finish at the rim. Could you focus on him on the Nets and shut him down? Yes, because they have limited other options, but on another team he could be better. Say Dallas, for example. Well, he’s not Jason Kidd at the end of his career….

  5. 202

    Devin Harris is not being shut down by too many teams in today’s NBA. The rules favour players who can get to the rim, and Harris is among the best in the league at that. Besides, do you really think teams aren’t trying everything in the book to stop him now? Or are they focusing on Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian instead?

  6. Kurt,

    Hosea? Really?

    Did you hear him tell Stephan, “It was close….,” ???

    Close? Stephan was kicking his butt all season, and Hosea wins? My wife called it too. I was rooting for Karla.

  7. Today we are all Clippers fans!

  8. watching the clippers run into a pile at the end of the game hugging and jumping was a touching moment. because for one night, the spotlight was on THIS LA team. They did this everyone in the city proud.

    Rough start for the marbury era, but i have no doubt the celtics will bounce back. They did just crush a decent nuggets team by 40 points a couple nights ago..

  9. Pierce has a dislocated right thumb. Boston Globe. It looks like game 7 at Staples is ours to lose.

  10. I wonder if Bynum’s return would come on Sunday April 14th at home against…Memphis??

  11. 210 – We definitely need to sit him out for that one. I’m actually in favor of preemptively sitting him out for all future games against memphis.

  12. I’m CERTAIN that the Lakers are better without Bynum. They’re winning % is better without him and that includes the majority of that tough road trip with games in boston, cleveland and another game in utah.

    Bynum will be a great player eventually and a great fit for this team. But for now, this team seems to feel better about how to play the game when Pau is at the C and LO at the PF.

  13. I’m with Wiseolgoat on this one. Next time Bynum is in Memphis I hope it’s for a barbecue and nothing to do with a basketball court.

    When I think about the team with or without Drew, I start on defense. With him we may have to worry a little more about shooting bigs, but without him, the entire team has to sag to prevent penetration (or occasionally leave the paint entirely uncovered like the late game possession against Minnesota), and either give up points in the paint or wide open 3s.

    The Second thing I think of is the bench. Look how lost they are on offense lately, despite everyone but Powell having a lot of experience in the system. Odom suits that unit great as a mobile big who can direct the offense when needed. Bynum could also do a lot of good for the bench as a large target to throw into, and if he could develop a good outlet pass he could help the break, but regardless the point is either option strengthens the bench. Which also keeps Pau and Odom fresh.

    Those 2 or 2.5 reasons on their own are enough to dispell the notion that they’re betetr without Bynum. If they need the freer flowing offense of Odom with the Starters, he’s usually the first substitution anyways, so it’s not like we lose this untit.

  14. Sorry for the double post but on the Clipper win last night- if anybody read Bill Simmons’s piece in ESPN the magazine this week, he spent an interview with Baron Davis convincing him to try harder the second half of the season… D’OH!

  15. I think one reason it’s difficult to assess the team with and without Bynum is that you also have to consider the emergence of Odom the Beast. It’s true that LO is playing better while Bynum isn’t playing, but a big part of that is because Bynum went down and Odom decided to step up.

    To put it another way, if you could only have one for the playoffs, would you rather have the Beastly Odom or Bynum? Even assuming Bynum gets back to mid-season form quickly (which isn’t a given), it’s a close call.

    The real problem is that you can’t really chose Odom the Beast in the long term. He doesn’t seem built mentally to produce at this level for that long. (We also don’t know what physical toll it’s taking on him; not every trains like Kobe.)

    The best part about it is that the Lakers don’t have to choose, at least this year. Jackson will work Bynum back in, and we’ll have to trust him to make those decisions correctly, which is usually a safe bet.

    For what it’s worth, I suspect we’ll might see Bynum start, but not finish. I suspect we might be seeing our crunch-time line-up emerge right now, as: Bryant-Gasol-Odom-Fisher-Walton.