On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers march into Oklahoma City as sacrificial lambs. Odds are that Friday night will not be fun for the purple and gold.
With Kobe Bryant back, the team was already struggling to reform its identity and had lost two in a row. Before getting on Thursday’s flight to the Midwest, the team was notified that it no longer had a single healthy point guard available. Steve Blake was out for six weeks.
For the foreseeable future, Kobe Bryant will start at point guard because Blake, Steve Nash, and Jordan Farmar are all out with various injuries. The Lakers’ current backup point guard is Xavier Henry, a player who never played point guard on the collegiate or professional levels until the last couple weeks.
Staring the Lakers in the face on Friday night are Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s superstar duo is one of only two duos in the league that feature two players ranked in the top 15 in scoring—Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Kevin Marin are the other pair.
Durant is the top scorer in the NBA at 28.4 points per game, and he averages more free throws than any other player in the league. As much as Durant can keep opposing coaches up at night, Mike D’Antoni was more likely losing sleep over Westbrook.
Westbrook, who was born in Long Beach and went to UCLA, is averaging 22.6 points, 8.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds over the past five games. In the two games the Lakers played in Oklahoma City last season, Westbrook averaged 35.0 points and 6.5 assists per game.
In the Lakers’ last visit to Oklahoma, Westbrook scored 37 points, and LA had Nash, Blake and a pre-Achilles surgery Bryant attempting to muzzle one of the most athletic players in the league. On Friday night, the Lakers have no point guards activated. Bryant is only three games back from a devastating Achilles injury, so expecting him to guard or slow down one of the elite athletic point guards in the NBA is not even an expectation.
Truthfully, the Lakers do not have many options against the Thunder, but this team has made a habit of winning games it should lose. Tip-off for the Lakers at Thunder is 5:00 pm PST.