Game: Lakers (18-25) vs. Thunder (34-10)
When: 12:30 p.m.
Where: Staples Center
The Lakers will receive clear answers on whether their snapped losing streak is a sign of better things to come, or if it’s nothing more than a one-hit wonder.
It’s likely the Lakers won’t like the verdict when they play the Thunder, which boasts the NBA’s best record. They’re also NBA’s best scoring team (105.9 points per game). Forward Kevin Durant (29.5 points) leads the league in scoring over Kobe Bryant (28.9).
The Lakers have already lost to the Thunder twice this season.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni admits this is hardly the opponent he wants to face after their win Friday agains the Utah Jazz snapped a four-game losing streak.
“I’m looking forward to see if it does stick,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know if I want Oklahoma City as the next test. But it tests you early. So be it. This is a great game.”
Regardless, the Lakers will have their hands full.
Bryant will guard Russell Westbrook, who has averaged 30 points through two games against the Lakers. Earl Clark and Metta World Peace will share duties tryng to stop Durant. The slow and old Lakers will have to somehow stop the Thunder from reeling from double-digit runs after conceding that in the other two contests.
“If we hit turbulence out there, we need to keep doing what we’re doing, hang in there,” D’Antoni said. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, go on to the next game.”
Even if their 102-84 victory Friday over the Utah Jazz featured an inferior opponent to the Thunder, the Lakers believe they provided a solid blueprint.
Dwight Howard played a large part in setting the tone defensive. Five players scored in double figures. Bryant took a back seat in scoring by posting 14 assists, just one shy of his career-high set in 2002.
Does Bryant need to become more of a facilitator?
“I don’t want him to sacrifice anything,” D’Antoni said. “I want him to be aggressive, but understand at a certain point when they collapse on you and go you have to go. If we do that, everybody will have touches and score. Defense is now energized and you build team unity.”
And, the Lakers hope, a win against a marquee team.