By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
Only two games remain on the Thunder’s 2021-22 season schedule and they both take place in the City of Angels. The Thunder faces the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday for the final time of the season. After mounting two massive comeback victories over the Lakers earlier this season, the Thunder holds the 2-1 series edge on the Purple and Gold.
Game Day: OKC at LAL
WHAT TO WATCH
Lakers Love Layups – The Thunder leads the league in layup rate this season as 31.9 percent of their field goal attempts result in in layups. The Lakers rank a close second in the same category with a rate of 31 percent. Since March, Los Angeles averages 51.8 points in the paint while shooting at a 61.5 percent clip in the lane – the third highest in the league. While getting to the paint will be key for the Thunder’s offense, protecting its own paint will be just as critical against the Lakers.
High-Volume Rookies – So far this season, the Thunder rookies are responsible for a whopping 342 made 3-pointers. The total ranks first among all teams this season (by 99 3-pointers) and third in the league all time. In addition to the shooting numbers, the Thunder has also received strong facilitating from its first-year players. After rookie 10-day signee Zavier Simpson dished out 11 assists against the Jazz, the Thunder is now one of just two teams that has two rookies with 10-assist games this season.
Age Differential – The Thunder holds the youngest roster in the league as the only team with an average age of under 24 years old. LA sits on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the oldest team in the league as the only team with an average age of over 30 years. While OKC continues to give extended opportunities to its young players, they’ll have an interesting test going up against the most veteran team in the league.
In both games that the Thunder have won against the Lakers this season, OKC overcame large deficits to do so. Back on October 27, the Thunder overcame a 26-point margin and on November 4, came back from 19 points down. The wins mark two of the three largest blown leads for the Lakers this season. The Thunder’s 26-point win marked the largest blown lead for the Lakers since 1996-97.
Jaylen Hoard on finishing the season in LA…
“I'm really excited. I’ve played the Lakers before, but it was in a bubble, so no fans – nothing. So going to Crypto.com Arena, it’ll be a good experience. I have some family out there, my little brother's gonna come to the game so it'll be pretty cool.”
With a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, the Lakers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. Injuries have played their role as the team sits in the top 10 in man-games lost this season. Since the All-Star Break, LA ranks 28th in points allowed and 30th in opponent field goal percentage as the teams overall defensive rating dropped to 119.6 – 28th in the league. Offensively, the Lakers are headlined by a litany of veterans including LeBron James who averages a team-high 30 points per game, Anthony Davis who adds 23 per night and Russell Westbrook who averages 18.