There’s a new superpower in the NBA and it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma City can strut into Staples Center Sunday and take advantage of the fallen Los Angeles Lakers, and possibly put a fork in L.A.’s diminishing playoff chances.
The game will also feature four All-Stars in L.A’s Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast by ABC.
Oklahoma City has youth, speed, power, and a team unity that the 18-25 Lakers are sorely missing. Los Angeles spelled a four game losing streak with a 102-84 victory over the Utah Jazz Friday, but have gone 3-10 in January.
L.A. might have put together their most complete team game this season against the Jazz, with five Lakers scoring in double figures, and Bryant didn’t have to carry the offense for long stretches like he’s done for most of the year.
Metta World Peace shot 5-for-11 from three-point range, recording 17 pints and five rebounds, while center Dwight Howard also scored 17 points and pulled down 13 boards.
A porous defense, especially along the perimeter, has been one of the Lakers biggest issues this season, and they are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2005. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has gone 13-20 since taking over for the fired Mike Brown earlier this season.
The 34-10 Thunder are perched atop the Western Conference, and sport the league’s best offense, pumping in 105.9 points per game. Still Oklahoma City has gone 2-2 in their last four games, but toppled the Sacramento Kings 105-95 on Friday.
Durant notched 24 points and 11 rebounds, while guard Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 24 points, including four three-pointers.
Many believed the Thunder deserved one more All-Star berth for center Serge Ibaka. Currently second in the league with 2.8 blocks per game, Ibaka is also notching 14 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Betting Odds: Oklahoma City is favored by 3.5 points
Over/Under: 206 points
Prediction: The Thunder should overpower a weak L.A. interior defense, with Durant and Westbrook leading the way. Bryant and Howard will get their points, but the rest of the Lakers will struggle throughout.
Predicted Score: Oklahoma City 110, Los Angeles 97