LAL in OKC for New-Look Thunder

The title of this post could have included a qualifier of “sort of.”

After all, Kendrick Perkins, the primary piece in Oklahoma City’s trade deadline deal with the Boston Celtics, is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a sprained MCL. He suffered the injury in Boston’s Tuesday win over Golden State before being shipped to the Thunder. So while it’s a different OKC team from the one the Lakers beat in Los Angeles on Jan. 17, it’s not yet a complete team.

Gone are Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston, while Nate Robinson came over along with Perkins, who tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last season against the Lakers, and had played only 12 games since returning from surgery to average 7.3 points with 8.1 rebounds.

Oklahoma City got drubbed 111-88 in Orlando on Friday, an unfortunate matchup against an angry Dwight Howard who’d called out his teammates after the previous game, since Krstic was in Boston and also-acquired Nazr Mohammad (Charlotte) had yet to clear his physical. As such, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison started at the four and five positions, with rookie Cole Aldrich the only big off the bench, and watched Howard rack up 40 points on 16-of-20 shooting.

On Sunday against the Lakers, Thunder Coach Scott Brooks may not want to use two power forwards in Ibaka and Collison against two 7-foot centers in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, which could mean a starting slot for Mohammad in his first game in OKC. In related news, Mohammad happened to have dropped 16 points in 24 minutes against the Lakers in L.A.’s Feb. 14 loss at Charlotte.

James Harden, charged with picking up some of the scoring slack left by Green, played 36 minutes off the bench in Orlando to score 16 points, while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to pull a ton of scoring weight from the perimeter.

The tip off is at 11:30 Pacific, and will be aired nationally on ABC as well as locally on 710 ESPN radio.