Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma City Thunder Preview
These two teams are coming off of very different results as the Lakers defeated the Jazz in decisive fashion while the Thunder couldn’t hold on against the Nuggets last time out in overtime. Offensively, the Thunder played as well as can be expected in that game as their top three scoring starters – Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari – all surpassed 20 points against Denver.
However, the defense wasn’t nearly good enough as OKC struggled to contain Nikola Jokic, who had a 30-point triple-double, and Michael Porter Jr., who had a career-high 37 points and 12 rebounds. That the Thunder struggled against some dominant interior play from those guys doesn’t bode well for this matchup as the Lakers have had the best frontcourt tandem in the NBA this season with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron nearly had another triple-double against the Jazz while Anthony Davis dominated with 42 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and a block, and also hit a game-clinching step-back 3-pointer that looked more like a shot Kevin Durant would make than AD.
The Lakers continue to struggle to get production out of their backcourt, though, as the group of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters, Alex Caruso, and Quinn Cook combined for just 32 points against the Jazz. The Lakers are the healthier of the two teams right now, despite their losses of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo. The Thunder’s Dennis Schroder, their third-highest scorer and a frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year left the bubble for the birth of his child. OKC will struggle to generate the same level of offensive consistency as they’re used to and that could spell trouble against the dominant defensive unit of the Lakers.
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Arena: The Arena, Orlando, FL
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Lakers: Avery Bradley (O), Rajon Rondo (DTD)
Thunder: Dennis Schroder (O)
Lakers Starting 5
Monday night’s victory over the Jazz represented a much-needed offensive bounceback for the entirety of the team. After shooting under 40% in each of their first two contests, the Lakers shot 50% from the field against the Jazz. After shooting 27.6% from 3-point range in their first two games, they shot 34.6% against the Jazz. Anthony Davis was the most impressive player for the Lakers the last time out as he exploded for 42 points, including 4-8 from 3-point range. His long-range shooting has continued to improve over the course of this season and is becoming a major weapon for this team. Alongside him in the frontcourt is LeBron James, a clear-cut First-Team All-NBA player who leads the league in assists per game. His all-around play since the restart, especially on the defensive end, has been really impressive. Assuming the Lakers play LeBron at the 3 and Davis at the 4 for the bulk of this game, which they have done more of recently, LeBron will be matched up with Lugentz Dort, a solid defender but pretty much a non-factor on offense. Davis would be left to deal with Danilo Gallinari, a player who is not capable of guarding him.
The rest of the Lakers’ starting lineup has been decent if entirely unspectacular. Javale McGee had 0 points and 1 rebound in 14 minutes against the Jazz as he was vastly outplayed by Dwight Howard off the bench. McGee will draw another difficult matchup in this game against Steven Adams. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green will draw the most difficult matchups to start the game as they will be positioned on Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, arguably OKC’s two best players this season. Both KCP and Green went 4-7 from the field against the Jazz, but neither player has totally found their range from 3-point land yet. Both of the Lakers’ backcourt starters played less than 30 minutes against Utah and it would not be a surprise to see that happen again as neither guy has been all that impressive and the Lakers do have some solid backcourt depth.
Thunder Starting 5
The Thunder backcourt has been one of the best in the NBA this season as Chris Paul has proved his doubters wrong and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the frontrunners for Most Improved Player. CP3 is averaging 17.8 points and 6.8 assists per game and has strong odds to make an All-NBA team after his first All-Star appearance in four years. Meanwhile, SGA is playing the most minutes per game on the team by far at 35.2 and is averaging 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. He has an incredibly bright future in the NBA. The Thunder will need these two guys to be at their best in order to beat the Lakers and after they combined for 47 points against the Nuggets they seem to be in midseason form. Both players will likely be playing a bit more than usual, as well, with the absence of Dennis Schroder from the team. CP3 and SGA will be tasked with guarding KCP and Danny Green on defense, at least to start the game, and neither player is particularly imposing offensively. They will likely be met with a bit more resistance when they’re on offense than they did against the Nuggets, however.
At forward, the Thunder have been rolling with Luguentz Dort alongside veteran Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari. Gallo is the best 3-point shooter on the team at 40.9% on 7.3 attempts per game, but his defensive limitations present some difficult circumstances for his team. In a game where the frontcourt will be met with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it will be interesting to see where Gallo fits in. Dort is a much better defender than Gallo, although not nearly the level of an offensive player. At just 21 years old it’s hard to ask Dort to body up LeBron for 38 minutes. Dort is averaging just 6.3 points per game this season and went just 3-13 from the field against Denver. Steven Adams rounds out the starting five for the Thunder and the New Zealand-born center has had a solid season with 11.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Adams will be hoping that Anthony Davis plays more at the power forward spot in this matchup as he would struggle to compete with him on the perimeter as Gobert did in their matchup.
Lakers vs Thunder Fantasy Basketball Angle
FanDuel has LeBron James and Anthony Davis pretty much identical for tonight’s projections, but I’d go with James here because he has a more favorable matchup. He’s available for $10.1k at a 43.4 point projection I feel he could surpass.
For the Thunder, Chris Paul is the play at just $7.3k. He’s expected to finish with 38.7 fantasy points.
Lakers vs Thunder Betting Odds
Lakers Moneyline: -250
Lakers Spread: -6.0
Jazz Moneyline: +205
Jazz Spread: +6.0
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