The Lakers (9-10) travel to Oklahoma City tonight to face the 15-4 Thunder. It’s a tale of two completely different teams, with the Los Angeles having a 2-5 record on the road and the Thunder being 9-2 at home. The game will pit the NBA’s top two leaders in scoring against each other, Kobe Bryant (28.0 ppg) and Kevin Durant (26.5 ppg) respectively. Kobe Bryant is coming off a win in New Orleans on Wednesday in which he scored the 30,000th point of his 17-year career. The Lakers have continued to play inconsistent ball without their stars Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and tonight will be a great test of where they are at as a team. Gasol will not play tonight, missing his third straight game with tendinitis in both knees. Chris Duhon will get the nod at starting point guard tonight after posting 10 assists and 0 turnovers against the Hornets. A win would get the Lakers back to .500 for the first time since their win on November 30 over the Denver Nuggets.
Oklahoma City has had the Lakers number for the past few years, thanks to their balance of length and athleticism. Russell Westbrook has given the Lakers headaches with his quickness, Kevin Durant has shown he can score from any spot on the court, Thabo Sefolosha can defend Kobe Bryant better than most players in the NBA, and Serge Ibaka is the NBA’s premier shot –blocker. This is the Lakers first time facing the Thunder without James Harden, but Kevin Martin has filled-in perfectly for Oklahoma City off the bench. Every Laker needs to play their best game of the season to beat the versatile Thunder, if not it could be a blow-out.
#15 World Peace SF #35 Durant
#4 Jamison PF #9 Ibaka
#12 Howard C #5 Perkins
#24 Bryant SG #2 Sefolosha
#21 Duhon PG #0 Westbrook
Key Matchup – Chris Duhon vs. Russell Westbrook
Chris Duhon will have a tough matchup in his third start of the season tonight. No Laker point guard has been able to stop Westbrook since he entered the league in 2008. He is freakishly athletic and has a multitude of tools at his disposal. Duhon won’t be able to stay in front of Westbrook, but the speedy guard likes to shoot from the outside rather than get to the hoop easily, so Duhon may not be a major liability on defense. On the other end, Duhon won’t be able to get many good looks against Westbrook so his production for Los Angeles will come through assists rather than points.
The game tips-off at 6:30PM PT on ESPN and TWC SportsNet.
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