It’s not like the Los Angeles Lakers needed a lot of reasons to get motivated before their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it seems Kobe Bryant has provided the spark for both sides by weighing in on the punch Serge Ibaka sent to the private areas of Blake Griffin.
In short? Bryant said he would have smacked Ibaka if he was on the receiving end of such a low blow, which will probably spark plenty of emotion from the fans in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder have won 26 of 30 this season, including 18 in a row against Western Conference teams.
And it’s looking to the past games, this season and even further back, against the Lakers, that should drive the Thunder with confidence heading into the game. They’ve already beaten the Lakers twice this season, although did lose by nine points at the Staples center on their previous visit in January.
Kevin Durant, who has been great against everyone, pretty much, this season, has been especially effective against the Lakers, who can’t find a way to stop the leading scorer in the NBA, constantly switching places with Carmelo Anthony in the last couple of weeks. Durant is averaging 37.7 points in the games against the Lakers, and is coming off a 35 point performance in the win over the Clippers.
For the Lakers, it’s mostly been Kobe Bryant in the last few games, winning four of their last five since the All-Star break. Bryant is averaging 34.8 points in these games, giving the Lakers a lot of confidence they might be able to catch up with the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz or Golden State Warriors in their quest for the 8th and final ticket to the postseason.
Defense, however, continues to be a problem for the Lakers, with Dwight Howard obviously not being 100%, be it his mood and desire or an actual physical thing. They’ve allowed 98 points or more in six of their last seven games, and without some defensive stops, in a higher rate than usual, won’t be able to keep up with the Thunder.
Predictions – While Bryant, at his best, has the ability to match Durant shot for shot, the Lakers don’t have a second player to keep up with Russell Westbrook. Unless they manage to frustrate Westbrook on both ends of the floor and take him out of the game, the Lakers aren’t going to be able and run with the Thunder.