Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Lakers Game Preview: How can Oklahoma City bounce back in round 2?

Photo Credits: Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Lakers

Tip Off: 9pm CST

Where to Watch: FSOK

Overview:

The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 in Monday’s overtime duel, and with the series finale commencing on Wednesday, the team will have one more shot to cause a rumble vs. the defending champs. The Lakers are looking to climb up the conference leaderboards in the contest, as their 19-6 record plops them one game behind the Utah Jazz, who reign supreme at 20-5.

Injury Report:

The Thunder will be without their two point-guard’s in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (knee), and Theo Maledon (health and safety) in addition to Isaiah Roby (foot), and George Hill (thumb.) For Oklahoma City, this marks the third time in the past four games they have geared up with the league minimum of eight active players on the roster.

The Lakers still have a barrage of questions looming heading into tonight as Alex Caruso (hand) and Anthony Davis (achillies) are listed as questionable for the game while LeBron James (ankle) is probable to play. Kostas Antetokounmpo (knee) and Jared Dudley (calf) will sit for the game.

Points of Emphasis:

Play Through Point Diallo/Bazley

With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Theo Maledon out, Hamidou Diallo will take the reigns of the starting point-guard position for the second time this season. Diallo not only has dropped double-digits in his last 10 games, but he was become as sneaky good passer. Hami cast 16 points and 10 assists in his lone starting gig at the point-guard this season, and similar numbers distributing the ball will play a pivotal role in the game.

With Darius Bazley, his tendency to burst out the gate with high volumes of points has not been any higher than now. The 20-year-old tallied 12 points and 6 boards in Monday’s meeting with the Lakers— and you can’t help but speculate his role may be amplified with the teams limitations. Bazley’s ball-handling has proven to be his strongest suit in the month of February, this game may be his best stage to put on a playmaking performance.

Swarm Defenders Early

The Thunder found their early success on Monday by pummeling ball-handlers out the gate— their efforts led to eight first quarter turnovers. Mark Daigneault should have no reason not to load his players’ up with another gameplan, as this risky style of play can of course lead to big deficits—but also major leads in the sunrise of the game.

No Sunny Skies Inside

The Oklahoma City Thunder allowed for 64 points in the paint on Monday, as well as 29 attempts at the free throw line. These numbers are simply inexcusable and if the Lakers’ can get hot or find calls down low— this game my already have a bow slapped on it. Al Horford will need to connect the dots on how to prevent Montrezl Harrell inside, as his 21 points on Monday veered the outcome for the purple and gold.

Surprisingly, Dennis Schroder shot the game high of 10 free throws on Monday over names like LeBron James or Harrell, who shot 5 and 3 respectively. Schroder (in addition to all of LA’s guys) directed his focus inside to strike up conversations at the line— all lines of communication need to be cut off. Kenrich Williams has not stuck out as an elite level rim protector, but his pesky defense should enable pressure around the iron, but with the hope of no fouls being issued. Lu Dort also will play a primarily role on defense, as if LeBron ever wants to go inside, he will be in the frontlines of any potential play.

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