OKC vs. LAL Preview – Stepping Up with Another Good Performance

The Thunder’s leadership set the standards for effort, energy and performance over the past six years, and with every game, the entire roster must uphold them.

As Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club faces off against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the squad is led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s intensity and defensive attitude. Setting the tone early to try to recreate its defensive performance from Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets will be on the minds of every Thunder player on the court. With shooters on the wings, the Thunder knows the Lakers will present a tough challenge, but if it communicates, creates the tempo it wants and works together, it can win.

“Tonight is on me as a leader and also on Russ to go out and there and set the tone from the beginning,” Durant said. “Being physical, locking into our guy and everybody else will follow. It’s a big leadership game for Russell and myself. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

“We have to play hard like we played last game, and everything will take care of itself,” Westbrook said. “If we dictate the pace and control the pace on both sides of the floor, you put yourself in a good position to win.”

Shooters like Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar line the perimeter for the Lakers, but the Thunder also must contend with Pau Gasol in the post. Just like they did against the Rockets and Dwight Howard, it will be up to Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison to deal with Gasol one-on-one while the other four Thunder perimeter defenders pick-and-choose their spots to come over to help by digging in or trapping. The most essential aspect of this defense will be timing, because the Thunder will need to rush back to the perimeter to defend the three-point line.

“We’re going to let our big guys do what they do, which is stay in between him and the basket, put a body on him and make him shoot tough shots,” Durant said.

“Don’t overcommit and just try to find the happy medium between showing your presence and being able to get back to your man,” Westbrook said. “Especially if you have a shooter, because bigs who can pass can pass it out really quick.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 2-1 against the Lakers this season, and overall is 9-11 against Los Angeles in the regular season.

- Kevin Durant has scored 25-or-more points in 29 straight games, tying the longest NBA streak in the past 25 years, which Durant himself set in 2009-10.

- Serge Ibaka has recorded 23 double-doubles so far this season and scored in double figures 52 times this year.

Broadcast Info:

8:30 p.m. CT. TV – TNT; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network