Update: D'Angelo Russell is out of Tuesday's contest due to a sore knee and will not travel with the team to Golden State per the team.
With Russell Westbrook playing as a man possessed, the Oklahoma City Thunder won six of their first seven games, but Oklahoma City arrives in Los Angeles on Tuesday having lost five of its past seven games. Similarly, the Lakers have hit a bit of a lull, losing three of their last four games.
Tuesday night is an important affair for both teams hopeful of making the postseason in the Western Conference. Nearly a fifth of the way into the 2016-17 season, Oklahoma City sits in the no. 6 spot in the Western Conference, while the Lakers hold the no. 8 seed. If the NBA Playoffs started on Tuesday, the Lakers would face the Clippers, which would be great fun for the City of Angels.
Back to the reality of Tuesday night, however, the Lakers will be without point guard D'Angelo Russell, who appeared limited in Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bulls. Previously, Russell sat out Friday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs with a sore left knee and that same injury kept the 20-year-old out of practice on Monday and shootaround on Tuesday morning.
Officially, Russell's status is listed was "questionable" with a final determination set to take place before tip-off. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo! Sports reported that Russell would sit out. The team followed up by stating that Russell would not travel to Golden State for Wednesday's game.
With Russell missing the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton expects to start veteran point guard Jose Calderon rather than Lou Williams or Jordan Clarkson because the coach prefers to keep his second unit intact.
The Lakers have the best scoring bench in the NBA at 51.6 points per game, but the Lakers' bench does more than simply play on one end of the court. The Lakers' bench has the best point differential of any second unit in the NBA with LA's backups boosting the team by an average of 19.6 points per game.
Of course, the biggest challenge for the Lakers on Tuesday is stopping Westbrook, who is a Southern California native and former UCLA Bruin. Born in Long Beach, Westbrook attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale before making the jump to Westwood. Now 28, Westbrook is the biggest star in Oklahoma City and playing at a level that is difficult to comprehend.
Westbrook averages 31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 9.6 rebounds per game. In his ninth year in the NBA, Westbrook is doing more than flirting with averaging a triple-double for the season. He's proposing to the idea. When the Lakers played the Thunder on Oct. 30, Westbrook led the Thunder to a 113-96 victory with 33 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. Incredibly, Westbrook is shooting a career-high from three-point land and still managing to shoot 44.7 percent from the field, which is better than his career average. While detractors point to his career-high 5.3 turnovers per game, Westbrook is carry the Thunder this season with Kevin Durant leaving town.
Arguably the most exciting player in the NBA, Westbrook, will star in his home town on Tuesday night, and without Russell, the Lakers will have an even taller task containing Oklahoma City's star.
Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.