Marc Gasol block vs the Thunder

Lakers vs. Thunder, Three Things to Know: 2/8/21

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (18-6) are set for their third of five straight home games, this one against the Oklahoma City Thunder (10-12), whom they’ll also face on Wednesday night in a rare home-and-home back-to-back. Tip is at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

*INJURY UPDATE
We learned at 11:15 a.m. on Monday that Anthony Davis will miss tonight's game with right Achilles tendinosis, while Alex Caruso is questionable with a right hand strain.

TWO SHIPS PASSING
The Lakers and Thunder entered this 2020-21 season with far different goals. LAL are, simply, title or bust. And OKC is in rebuilding/developmental mode, having made a series of moves over the last two seasons to point their franchise towards the future. In trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and then Chris Paul, they acquired a plethora of first round picks from the Clippers, Rockets and Suns that will be trickling in over the next several years. Their roster includes six rotation players that are 22 or younger, compared to L.A.’s, in which 20-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker is the only rotation player that’s younger than 25.

With that said, youthful energy can be an advantage on certain NBA nights, as the Lakers saw firsthand against Detroit on Saturday, when several young Pistons players helped erase a 17-point 3rd quarter deficit to ultimately force double overtime that required late heroics from LeBron to save the day.

The young Thunder will be excited for another shot at the defending champions in their own building, particularly after being blown out a few weeks ago.

LAST MATCHUP
Indeed, on Jan. 13, the Lakers and Thunder faced off in Oklahoma, and the game wasn’t particularly close at any point. LAL led by nine after one, 12 at halftime and 22 after three before closing out a 128-99 victory. LeBron and Anthony Davis played only 27 and 25 minutes, respectively, as the bench took over and built the lead, led by 21 points from Montrezl Harrell, 11 points and seven boards from Markieff Morris and seven points with six boards from Kyle Kuzma.

Vet Al Horford, acquired from Philly for Danny Green – who of course was acquired from the Lakers for Dennis Schroder – didn’t play, though George Hill (10 points) and Mike Muscala (seven) did. Horford should be available on Monday, after sitting out the second game of a B2B against Minnesota; in the first game, he went off for 26 points, eight assists, seven boards and three blocks against the Wolves.

24 DOWN, 48 TO GO
Believe it or not, the NBA season is already one-third complete for the Lakers, who have a .750 win percentage. Relative to an 82-game season, they’d be on pace for 61.5 wins. They boast the league’s best road record at 12-2, and hold the No. 1 DEF RTG of 104.8, plus the No. 7 offense (113.0), which would surely be higher were they to more consistently keep their foot on the pedal late in games like the one they just had against Detroit.

The biggest evolution from the first few weeks of the season has been Frank Vogel’s shortening of the rotation from 10 or 11 players to nine, with Talen Horton-Tucker earning regular minutes with his mostly-terrific play, and both Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris getting DNP’s. Vogel did say that the rotation will be fluid, and Matthews and Morris will get playing time, but it’s been four games now, all of which have been wins.

Leading the way for the Lakers is current MVP favorite LeBron, who has yet to miss a game in Year 18, while putting up 25.5 points on 49.7 FG’s and 41.0% 3’s, plus 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds. OKC doesn’t have the personnel on the wing to deal with James, but of course, they aren’t alone there.

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