Fresh off a streak-ending win over the struggling New Orleans Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers have a much more formidable opponent standing in their way in the form of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After joining the 30,000 point club en route to a 29-point performance on Wednesday, Bryant is also just 10 points from surpassing Dr. J on the ABA/NBA combined scoring list. Bryant may have to bring his shooting touch against the Thunder. Pau Gasol will rest his knees for the third consecutive game and Dwight Howard’s struggles continue from the free throw line. The Lakers center has gotten so frustrated with advice from teammates about his free throw shooting that he’s even begun shunning advice from point guard Steve Nash, one of the best free throw shooters of all-time.
"My mind cannot get clouded with everybody telling me how to shoot a free throw. I just have to go up there and shoot it my way and not get caught up in what everybody else is saying, because that's when I miss." Howard said.
There couldn’t be a bigger dichotomy between two opponents from the charity stripe. Not only do the Lakers rank last in free-throw shooting percentage but the Thunder rank first.
Meanwhile, the Thunder’s juggernaut offense leads the league in points per game and is a respectable 11th in points allowed per game.
Offensively for Oklahoma City, the matchup will be decided by two players who don’t require any tips on shooting. Durant and Westbrook are averaging a combined 48 points per game but Durant will be matched up against Metta World Peace whose physicality has given Durant fits in the past.
Meanwhile, with the Two Steves, Nash and Blake on the mend, Westbrook will be attacking the rim relentlessly against the Lakers platoon of backup point guards. Antawn Jamison will join Bryant as part of the starting lineup in the Lakers stretch-4 role. After a slow start to the season in which he averaged 4 points per game over the season’s first ten games, Jamison is tallying 18 points per game(not including a 3-point, 1-for-7 brickfest in a loss to Indiana) since.
Where To Watch Online: Lakers at Thunder
In the post, the Dwight Howard will run up against old nemesis, Kendrick Perkins, who has established a reputation as a bit of a Dwight-Stopper. This is the first meeting between the two franchises since the Thunder buried L.A.’s title hopes in Game 5 of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.