There were tornado warnings flashing across the TV screen on Monday night in Oklahoma City. But will the Thunder be able to provide some serious turbulence for the Lakers on Tuesday night at the Ford Center?
One thing L.A. can count on is that Kevin Durant and Co. will bring a full load of energy, as they’ve been doing for weeks to move past the Kings, Clippers, Grizzlies and Timberwolves in the Western Conference standings.
“The crowd in Oklahoma City really gets behind the team, and they’re really playing good basketball right now,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw. “Having the best record in the West, our guys have to realize that they’re a target every time they step into a team’s arena.”
Last time L.A. was in OKC, the Lakers ended up with a 107-93 victory on Feb. 24, though the Thunder had dwindled L.A.’s double-digit lead to just one early in the fourth quarter thanks to some flat out effort. One way they were able to do it was on the glass, outrebounding the Lakers 45-30 for the game including 12 offensive boards, often an effort statistic.
Durant led the way, as he’s accustomed to doing, with 32 points (plus 10 boards and six assists), one more than his scoring output in L.A.’s 105-98 home win in early February. He makes much of his money out of the pick and roll, either as the ball handler or the screener, as he’s effective at shooting over top of the screen, driving around it or rolling out of it.
As far as the Lakers are concerned, it’d be nice to carry over the terrific bench performance from Saturday’s win in Chicago, and interesting to see if Phil Jackson again starts Lamar Odom with the second unit in the fourth quarter.
The bottom line, however, is that game two of L.A.’s seven-game, 13-day trip should test the Lakers’ focus just as much as their ability to deal with the youthful Thunder.