Here is what you need to know before the Lakers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.
1) Defense has become the Lakers’ calling card
Since LeBron James went down with a strained groin, the Lakers have relied on their defense, ranking second in both opponent field goal percentage (42.5) and opponent 3-point percentage (32.0).
The Lakers have been an excellent defensive team for most of the season, with players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee stepping up on that side of the ball.
In Tuesday’s win over Chicago, they held their opponents to only 100 points on 40.2 percent shooting. In their 11 games without LeBron, they are third in the NBA in defensive rating (103.5).
But they do need to step up on the other end, ranking last in offensive rating (100.9) during that same span.
Zach LaVine (23.2 ppg) ranks among the NBA’s top 15 scorers, but was held to 10 pts on 11 attempts vs. the Lakers.
L.A. threw aggressive coverages at LaVine, forcing the ball out of his hands. pic.twitter.com/cVHoWZpW43
— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) January 16, 2019
2) Zo’s been providing something of everything
While the Lakers’ offense struggled against the Bulls, Lonzo Ball provided the necessary spark to get the right final result.
The sophomore finished with a game-high 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, adding a scorching stretch in the third quarter when he scored 11 straight for the Lakers.
Ball has been doing it all lately, averaging 13/7/7 over L.A.’s last five games, while adding two steals in each. Whether it’s attacking in transition or picking up full-court on defense, Ball has been there to provide energy plays.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 16, 2019
3) OKC is looking to snap out of its rut
The Thunder boast the NBA’s highest-rated defense, but one their last five games they have surrendered a league-high 128.6 points, which has unsurprisingly resulted in four losses.
But Oklahoma City has no shortage of firepower, led by top-10 scorer Paul George — who dropped 37 points on the Lakers two weeks ago and has scored 30-plus in 11 of his last 20 games.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the third straight season, and Steven Adams is a monster on the offensive glass. Toss in a potential return to defensive form and OKC is one of the most formidable opponents in the NBA.
Lakers: LeBron James (strained left groin) and Rajon Rondo (right ring finger surgery) are out. Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Thunder: Nerlens Noel (concussion protocol), Andre Roberson (left patellar tendon) and Alex Abrines (personal) are out.
Tip-Off: 6:30 p.m. PT
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Source: Los Angeles Lakers