2 Keys to Victory: Lakers vs. Thunder
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The 15-14 Los Angeles Lakers are in Oklahoma City today to face off against the 18-8 Thunder.
With a win today, LA would snap their four-game losing streak and build momentum ahead of their next two matchups at home.
This won’t come easy as the Thunder sit at the number two seed in the West and are coming off a three-game winning streak.
Let’s look at our two keys to victory in what should be a scrappy and hard-fought battle for the Lakers in OKC.
Head Coach Darvin Ham has been criticized lately for his seemingly poor rotations. Because of this, Ham has decided to change up the starting lineup by replacing point guard D’Angelo Russell with forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
This move also comes from a particularly substandard month from Russell, who’s only averaged 9.4 points on 34.5% shooting and 25.0% from three over his last five games.
In this game, LA must emphasize slowing down the Thunder offense.
OKC is one of the most efficient teams in the NBA, shooting a third-best 49.2% from the field and a second-best 38.6% from three. In Thunder wins this season, their offense shines even greater, shooting 51.2% from the field and 42.1% from three, with an offensive rating of 121.5.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last 6 games:— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 22, 2023
32.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.3 APG, 3.3 SPG
Chet Holmgren last 6 games:
18.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 3.8 BPG pic.twitter.com/BkTYJ6D0Kw
Young stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams are all excellent offensive weapons, averaging nearly 65 combined points per game.
Making rotational changes will be integral to challenging the Thunder offense by allowing the Laker lineup to be longer across the board, hopefully bolstering the recently lackluster perimeter defense while also being able to switch onto bigger defenders down low.
We’ll be on the lookout to see how Ham employs Russell with different rotations and what other changes he’ll look to make. Still, regardless, rotational changes have been necessary during this losing skid.
We’ve stressed the importance of offensive rebounding all year, yet against an OKC team particularly vulnerable to giving up second-chance opportunities; this becomes especially important tonight.
In Thunder losses this season, they only pull in 28.6 defensive rebounds, compared to their 34.8 in wins.
The Lakers are one of the worst offensive-rebounding teams in the association, at only 8.7 per game. In wins, however, they bump this number to a slightly greater 9.3, which would go a long way against a sometimes weak Thunder team on the defensive boards.
Being fairly weak on the offensive end, ranking 24th in offensive rating at 111.6, the Lakers may have a tough time against a strong defensive Thunder team.
Respect Lu Dort ✖️ Chet Holmgren defense is special pic.twitter.com/Jiw9r1vkHA— ThunderTalk⚡️ (@ThunderTalkYT) December 18, 2023
OKC ranks in the top five in defensive rating at 110.2; however, where the Thunder have problems is allowing second-chance points per game, as they rank second-most allowed in the league at 16.3.
It will be hard to score on the Thunder. If LA can focus on grabbing offensive rebounds and giving themselves second-chance opportunities, they could find themselves right in this game.
The Lakers team we’ve watched over the past couple of weeks has the opportunity tonight to be the team we know they can be.
With improved rotations and tenacity on the offensive boards, the Lakers will look to steal one on the road in their first of their three against OKC.