Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Thunder

Darius Soriano —  March 9, 2014

The scheduling gods can be quite cruel. After playing a home and road back to back set against Clippers and Nuggets (both losses), the Lakers start a four game home and home stint with match ups against the Thunder and the Spurs. That’s four straight games against the two teams with the best records in the West; four straight games that can (will?) get ugly fast.

It all starts against the Thunder at Staples today and based off recent Lakers’ performances there is not much reason to be encouraged. The Thunder are fifth in the league in points scored per 100 possessions and with the way the Lakers have defended lately, there is a real opportunity for that number to improve. There isn’t a single match up, outside of Gasol vs. either Steven Adams or Nick Collison, that tilts in the Lakers favor. And I mean that when looking up and down the entire rosters of both teams.

There’s really no need to extoll the virtues of the Thunder’s players at this point. Kevin Durant is a co-favorite to win the MVP. Russell Westbrook is back in the lineup and remains one of the league’s top 10 or so best players. Players like Ibaka and Reggie Jackson have made huge strides over the last couple of seasons as two way contributors. With other role players, both young and veteran, rounding out their roster there’s no wondering why their one of the best teams in the league and one of the 3 or four teams who can legitimately lay claim to being a real contender to win the championship.

At this point I’d lay out a way for the Lakers to try and win this game, but the reality is things would need to go quite wrong for the Thunder for, basically, the entire contest for that to happen. If you recall the last time these two teams played the Lakers looked well on their way to stealing a victory, holding a good lead over the course of the entire game. They had held Durant mostly in check, keeping him off the foul line while seeing his jumper clang off the rim repeatedly. With Westbrook sitting out, the Lakers took advantage of KD’s low output. Then the fourth quarter came and Durant found his stride. His jumper started to fall, his aggression led to trips to the foul line, and before you knew it he had put up over 20 points in the period and the Thunder got the win.

The game was entertaining and, in some ways offered a moral victory, but that loss also confirmed the fact that the Thunder are several notches above the Lakers and simply needed to turn up their overall game to get the W. Today, I don’t expect them to have any such problems showing their superior class early on. As mentioned up top, the Lakers are simply defending too poorly and with their insistence on playing at a fast tempo with a small lineup, I think the Thunder use those extra possessions and size advantage at nearly every position to take a lead early and never look back.

Sure, there are ways for this to not happen. If Kendall Marshall could find his jumper again, the Lakers could get some needed points while helping their spacing for Gasol in the post, for Meeks on the perimeter, and for Bazemore to slash to the rim. If Gasol can get going in the post early he can anchor the offense and, hopefully, draw enough attention to open up the game for the perimeter shooters to get some open looks. Also, if they can turn the Thunder over early, they could get some easy baskets in the open court and generate some offense that way while also keeping the Thunder from scoring.

Sadly, as I’ve said too many times this year, even if the Lakers can do this for stretches it is nearly impossible for them to do so over the course of a full game without the other team finally saying “enough is enough” and exerting their superior talent at some point. In other words, the most we can probably hope for is a repeat of the last game these two played — a hard fought loss. Which, when you think about, isn’t the worst thing in the world, it’s just not what I enjoy rooting for.

Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on ABC. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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75 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Thunder

  1. If ABC weren’t some corporate media dumb-down machine, I would feel sorry for it having to run this game. As it stands, this game won’t be any worse than any other programing they would normally run… aside from an actually well matched NBA game.

  2. the most we can probably hope for is a repeat of the last game these two played — a hard fought loss.
    ___
    Woefully speaking, that´d be a step in the right direction at this point.

    Play `em tough guys!

  3. There is a way the Lakers win or make it close.

    It’s called Saturday night in Hollywood for a team from OKC,

    I still remember the Sat night I spent with my agent friend and his Toronto client at the Sky Bar. In LA. The Sunday day game Kobe scored. 81 points with that guy 3 steps behind.

    Game will be within 5 points today

  4. in protest to daylight savings time; i’m tuning in around halftime.

    this being a sunday, can’t remember exactly the number of hail marys and our farthers spoken this painful laker season. will probably have a few more confessions later on today as a result of today’s game versus the thunder.

    on the bright side; looking forward to season’s end.

    Go lakers

  5. Normally, I’d be pi$$ed at ABC. Watching the Bulls play the way you’re supposed to play is better than watching the Lakers.

  6. Rfen True. Did Tibbs make the players or did the players come in as great defenders?

    By the way my LA friend said yes there were late nite OKC out.

    4 TO early for them.

  7. Does it seem odd that Kobe making $30 million a year doesn’t bother coming to even the Nationally televised games?

  8. I am very impressed with Meeks’ improvement.

  9. -13 in rbs after the 1st quarter

    - loved the end of the bulls game …. even with castoffs like augustin and dunleavy thibs makes them winners- we should totally overpay thibs

  10. Can you fire a coach at Half Time?

  11. I’m not a big fan of the buyout/sign with a contender scenario. Teams out of contention throw good, high salaried players on the scrap pile to save money and the top teams in the league benefit. Players like Butler (Thunder) and Granger (Clippers) can swing the balance of power. Case of the rich getting richer.

  12. Coincidentally, Jabari Parker reminds me of Caron Butler quite a bit. Not the greatest athlete, but a tough, smart player.

  13. Collins laughing and making fun of Lakers and style of play.

    Of course they have zero offensive rebounds Doug. Best rebounders sit.

  14. Gasol..Meeks…Farmar…..The rest are not NBA players…even on a bench.There is a reason they have gone from team to team.When playing against decent players..they are exposed…10…12 th spot on a team…

  15. Nice spurt by the Lakers to pull within 5. Totally agree with Doug Collins’ comments about Jodie Meeks, who he called ” A rotation player on a quality team.”

  16. Gene

    Maybe upside for Henry and Kelly. The rest I agree with.

  17. Westbrook is a bit too emotional. It hurts his effectiveness. He could be even better if he would channel his energy properly.

  18. Hey Mike!

    The problem with small ball?

    Small players

    Rebounds 38 to 17 Daaaaaaaa

  19. I think Wes Johnson and Bazemore have upside as well
    .

  20. Kenny the problem is if you have 8 guys next year with upside you have the same junk as this year.

    Sasha, Slava and Kwame had upside too.

  21. I think MD’A would rather lose playing his style than win playing any other way. He seems that stubborn.

  22. Meeks is Jared dudley part 2. He plays hard, hits open 3s and trys on defence. And is playing more mins than he than he normally would because the system plays to his offensive strengths and out of necessity due to weak roster. In a good playoff team Meeks is probably your 7-8th man at best.

    Not to say he hasn’t improved but it’s all relative to what kind of roster you’re on. Dudley has pretty much disappeared on clips, same thing would happen to meeks.

    I don’t always agree w Collins but like listening to him and hubie. They’re usually the most informative and interesting without being homerish as colour guys

  23. Ko great point re Thibs

    Thibs creates an environment wherein Defense is a priority. The athletes that perform well for a coach are those that buy in to his system and thrive in it. Thibideau is like a good college coach whose players give 110% on both ends of the floor.

    There is ZERO doubt in my mind that a coach like Thibideau would have the current Lakers performing at MUCH higher and more competitive level than Dantoni, regardless of the injuries we’ve suffered.

  24. Ko….
    I’m just talking about current players that I think can play a little. I also think that it is very hard to evaluate players on a poorly coached, thoroughly undisciplined team. Certain players may not be a good fit on the Lakers moving forward, but may be able to be converted into assets the team can use to get better.

  25. Am I the only one who is embarrassed when Marshall lines up for that underhand shot?

    Shooting 14% last 10 games. And still starts.

  26. Jodie Meeks is very underrated. This guy can play.

  27. Jc, I don’t question Thibs defensive pedigree. But unless you make some serious roster changes this team still gets destroyed. Yes defense is a lot about heart, wanting to play it, and good schemes, but given the athletes in the nba you need top flight guys and lakers have none. No defensive post presence whatsoever and even the Lakers speedy guys aren’t overly quick.

    No matter if it’s pop,pj, or thibs, you can’t teach speed/height or athleticism and overall this team is pretty low in all these categories. At the nba level you need al that plus bball iq plus a good defensive coach – all of which are in short supply on this team

  28. My post before game

    There is a way the Lakers win or make it close.

    It’s called Saturday night in Hollywood for a team from OKC,

    Credit please?

  29. Meeks going to hit for 40 tonight!

  30. Jodie Meeks with a career high today, his previous was 31 points.

  31. Lol good for meeks.

    Don’t remember who posted the story about a raps player being out w an agent the night prior to kobe dropping 81. Wasn’t jalen rose on that raps team and I thought he spent a lot of time trying to guard kobe.

    Geez I hate him and bill Simmons in studio.

  32. That was me and that was him. Can’t tell story on here though. We were under basket laughing all game.

  33. These players are crushing my tank dreams. I love watching a win, but man…

  34. Lol nprob Ko. Rose was a bit of a tool in TO.

    Good to see some smiles on the bench.

  35. That was an ominous 3 pointer by KD. He maybe going into Reaper mode soon. :( Or is it :)
    I’m so conflicted!

  36. Nice to see these young guys bring some excitement into Staples today! Go Los Lakers! Tank this!

  37. Jodie Meeks 20, Thunder 19 in the third quarter

  38. Joy and horror… I hate the draft rules, what kind of madness is it to root for your team to lose. Please heat up Durant.

  39. Kelly is playing w good energy today.

  40. Jerke
    Dwight Howard is an example of a great athlete who is an elite defender.
    But playing good defense doesn’t necessarily require great athleticism.
    Boxing out, understanding how to play passing lanes, rotating, ‘opening up’ and seeing your man and the ball, ‘showing’ on a P&R to slow the passer, sliding your feet, helping the helper,
    taking a charge, and good old-fashioned hustle are all examples of good defensive strategies that can be taught and emphasized by a good coach.

    Many excellent high school and college coaches make their teams competitive simply by stressing and practicing these defensive essentials, especially when their teams LACK superior athleticism.

    Howard’s current teammate Asik is widely regarded as an excellent defender but nobody’s raving about his vertical. Derek Fisher was an average athlete at best but a smart team defender who drew charges regularly.
    John Stockton led the NBA in steals twice and nobody talks about what a great ‘athlete’ he was.

    Defense is played between the ears.

    This just in:
    Jodie Meeks is gathering MVP votes.

  41. jerke…
    Kobe busted up Jalen Rose and Morris Peterson pretty good on his way to his awe-inspiring 81. Mo Pete was scared of Kobe big time after that game. Let’s not forget that Rose admitted to trying to hurt Kobe in the 2000 Finals. A true sportsman!

  42. Jodie Meeks has a ridiculous career night-> Fish is guarding him.

  43. @kenny yeah I felt bad for mo p after that game, but rose deserves to be punked. Rose still lacks class, example him comparing grant hill and other players to “uncle tom” simply cuz they played at Duke in his documentary about the fab five last year or so.

    Lakers just gotta play under control rest of the way watch the stupid fouls

  44. Jodie Meeks is the first Lakers guard other than Kobe to score 40+ in a game since Nick Van Exel on Feb. 20, 1995

  45. Why is Marshall in? Another zero point game!

  46. Stockton is the all time steals leader

  47. Jc – I don’t disagree about the fundamentals of good d, problem is that a head coach shouldn’t have to teach those at this level. As for asik, he might not be super athletic but he is a top flight post defender arguably just below noah/howard and miles better than anyone on this roster. Just simply changing coaches does not a quality defense make. But throw asik on this team, and just by virtue of having a quality deterrent at the rim lakers would be much improved

  48. Offensive rebounds are killing us – 18 allowed so far

  49. Whoa… pucker time. those used timeouts might kill okc though

  50. Marshall is so bad why isint farmar closing the game … tank is in bro

  51. Nice coaching.

    D league Marshall instead of Farmer.

    Now that’s called trying to lose!

  52. KB to the rescue!! Bazemore not Bryant!

  53. Good win for these guys. Played w some heart and hustle tonight

  54. Bazemore with some huge baskets in the 4th quarter helps the Lakers to hold on for the win over the Thunder.

  55. So where is my props for my prediction before the game?

    6th man Saturday Night in LA WINS

  56. Yay!! Meeks really!?!??!?!

    GOOOoooOOOOOO LAKERS!!!

  57. Marshall 10 assists; team played better with him in there. D’Antoni just goes with who he likes in the game. Bazemore didn’t start, but he finished because he was performing. No ulterior motives.

    Any team can play good, any can play bad. One game. Nice one for the Lakers.

  58. Jodie with the career high 42!! Bazemore seals the deal! For one afternoon in Staples, a burst of sunshine in a gloomy season.’

  59. small brain; i mean small ball wins today. must be daylight savings time. thank you okc.

    some of lakers not on next year’s roster are making it easy for other teams to decide who will best bolster their teams.

    no hail marys, no our fathers; unless oh caca qualifies.

    Go lakers

  60. @J C

    Defense is played between the ears

    Great comment! Excellent point.

  61. That game really played havoc on KO’s wine contest.

    I’m surprised the Lakers trapped so well with OKC being good ball handlers. Again, if I’m Farmar, I’m wondering why I’m behind Marshall on the depth chart and not closing. (Rhetorical) If Pau is not retained, who could they get to take his place that comes close to him when he’s healthy?

    There were a lot of great party options this weekend.

  62. Good win!

  63. why are our own fans so ready to dismiss Kelly. Some of you guys are so pessimistic. Is Anthony Bennet and all those 1st round picks playing better than him? C’mon, enough with the petty jabs and support the players. The kid is smart, he might not be athletic but his IQ is way way higher than the Mclemores, Otto Porters, Caldwell-Popes. He is a 2nd round pick and so what? Geez. We might be losing now but please cut out the he is not an NBA player or rotation player whatever. Kelly might not glitter but the kid can ball.

  64. These players are crushing my tank dreams. I love watching a win, but man…

    Indeed. The players and coaches deserve credit for the W…but it arguably could end up hurting the organization.

  65. this is easily the season’s most disappointing win. #tank

  66. Ko – Saturday night in LA probably helped but how about giving credit to the Lakers for playing their hearts out and some credit to MDA for being able to get that effort out of them. Part of it is playing for their next contracts (say goodbye to Meeks, he’s going to get paid) but the team could have easily completely quit on the coach after the last three games and instead won a game they had no business winning. Smallball, combined with the talent deficiency, is aggravating on defense and the boards but it at least gives the team a puncher’s chance to overcome their lack of talent and win when the 3s are going in. Obviously this approach can also result in disasters like the Clippers game, among others, but blowout losses against top teams like the Clippers, Blazers, and Thunder is the default expectation going in anyways.

    The league REALLY needs to fix the draft system. Underdog victories like this should be cause for only celebration not regret over losing ping pong balls.

  67. Haha – most disappointing win.
    That’s funny.

    Props to Ko for predicting The Hangover.

    More props to the guys (or gals) that poured the drinks :)

  68. Good game – Vegas should be taking the Lakers off the board for the rest of the year : ) Lose by 48 one night, beat the best in the conference another night, websites are implying that losing is orchestrated. The bookmakers can’t deal with this.

  69. “BILL SIMMONS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING” what a worthless Laker-hating POS;)

  70. This is what should be expected of a D’Antoni team. It’s all about offense. When they’re hitting shots, moving the ball, not turning it over, their spirit goes up, and they’re also in a better position defensively. Their defense usually, not always, improves. If they’re playing another bad defensive team they don’t really respect, it can turn into a scorefest. I don’t expect them to dig in and stop teams when they’re struggling themselves. When does that ever happen?

    That’s, to most basketball people’s minds, with talented team or not, the flaw in the philosophy. Can’t count on offense, especially against good defenses. Can’t rely on the quick 3-pt shot. That’s why you can beat Portland and OKC, but get embarrassed otherwise. Quarter to quarter, half to half, game to game, up and down.

  71. melcountscounts March 9, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Lakers are going to lose plenty more, it’s ok to cheer for a win against OKC. Payback will be in OKC on Thurs, may not be pretty.

    All you guys yelling for Kendall Marshall’s head, there’s a reason he came in for JF in the 4th, the ball movement was dying, he had a couple of key assists during that time. He’s a kid, give him a break. I enjoy watching him pass the ball, his court vision is amazing. His shot is ugly indeed, but he showed earlier he can score a little bit, his confidence is down right now. I don’t expect him to be around next year, but I’ll bet he’s in the league.

    Like some of these young guys, but above posting is right, you can’t keep seven of them, then you’re mediocre again. How about Bazemore, Kelly (never thought I’d say that), and either Wes or Kendall?

    Pau is playing hard, I give him credit.

  72. I didnt knew this was an early game i just foud out im stunned, wow

  73. Pat a while back when the Bulls played the Lakers this idiot dared to apologize to viewers bc the Lakers were so bad at the halftime show. Jalen Rose looked at him straight in the eye and asked him ” whats the Celtics record again?” His face said it all that was as a good burn as i ever seen one, one of my highlights of this miserable season. I hate that homer.

  74. Meeks is the shooter like Gil Hodges, Steve Kerr and the Paxsons were for Chicago. The FO will figure a way to keep in regardless whether MiD is kept. The issue arises as to whom do you choose among Swaggy, Bazemore, Henry, and Brooks. All are relatively young but Swaggy, though wild, is more of a polished professional. Brooks has the potential to be a lethal scorer but will never be a good defender. Bazemore and Henry are the same guy to me. Bazemore plays wild like Swaggy, but he always gives a great effort. Though we all like Farmar you can see that MiD doesn’t like him. Farmar stops the ball, he goes ISO and plays the two man game with Pau. Both of those traits are against MiD’s guidelines. Farmar hit a three and MiD looked more pissed than happy about it.