The Lakers are coming off a maddening 2-3 road trip. We all know about the controversial loss to Boston and, most recently, the loss to the Pelicans, who snapped their 10-game skid.
The team is home now and they’ll be going against the Oklahoma City Thunder, another surprise team who everyone thought was going to be at the bottom of the standings. That’s not the case as we all know; in fact, they’re in front of the Lakers at 12th place with a 25-28 record while L.A. sits with a 25-29 slate.
The Thunder are powered by one of the best scorers in the league in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. We all talk about the Thunder wanting and needing a star player that can get the Thunder back to prominence (hence the talk about this year’s lottery and draft) but maybe they already have that star in Shai. SGA is 6th in the league in scoring at 30.8 points per (which seems ridiculous; this would lead the league in most years, post-Wilt). A combo guard that gets to the paint at will and a master at the midrange, Shai is elite at getting buckets.
Shai is not alone as he has the ever-improving Josh Giddey (16.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists per game) and their rookie, Jalen Williams (11.7 points per), flanking him. It’s too bad that Lu Dort hasn’t been playing (hamstring issue) and Aleksej Pokusevski will continue to be out due to a fractured leg. And we know their prized pick last summer, Chet Holmgren, has not and will not play this season due to a foot injury. Still, this is a young, talented, and potentially dangerous team in the future and even more so when everyone is healthy.
What stands out about OKC is that they attempt the most field goals per game. Not necessarily the most efficient offense but they are 5th in the league in points per game. We might be in for a scoring binge.
Now the Thunder did have a game on Monday night against the Warriors (it didn’t go so well). So once again, the Lakers play another road-weary team. It’s another opportunity for them but you know how this season has gone.
As for the Lakers, it’ll be great if they can focus at the task at hand (which, again, we know how that’s gone). But we also know what’s looming. LeBron James is now 36 points away from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. And he could very well do it on Tuesday night.
I feel like this hasn’t been made as big a deal as it should. The scoring record has been considered untouchable. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points. He played 20 seasons and averaged 20 or more points for 17 straight seasons. And he didn’t miss many games deep into his career (missed 20 games in 1977-78 and 17 in 1974-75 but never missed more than 8 games in any other season). Only 10 players in NBA history have stayed in the league for 20 or more seasons so this record felt like it would stand forever.
One of the 10 players that played 20 or more seasons, though, is LeBron James (technically, he’s in his 20th season now but you know what I mean). And it’s incredible what he’s doing this season. How a 38-year-old man with tons of miles on his body is doing this, I’ll never know. The guy is averaging 30 points per game in his 20th season! He’s just a marvel. We take for granted what he’s doing because he’s been doing this for a long time. When we step back to take a look at this, it’s beyond human comprehension what he does on the court. And sometimes, we feel bad that he’s basically carrying the team on his back when he should be taking it a little easier as a 20-year player.
I’m not going to say this record will be impossible to beat; after all, LeBron is about to do it. But we’ll have to see another ridiculous scorer that can stay in the league for 20-plus years. And he’ll have to get buckets consistently like both Kareem and LeBron did.
As for injuries, Anthony Davis is probable and we all know about LeBron’s questionable status at this point. But a name that stands out there is Austin Reaves. He seems ready to go for Tuesday night and, honestly, the Lakers have missed his heady play. They’re going to need him down the stretch if L.A. were to get in the play-in game. Or for a playoff spot, if you’re the optimistic type.
We get to see a fantastic talent and a present-and-future star and we might see history being made on Tuesday night’s Laker/Thunder game. If you’re an NBA fan, you probably won’t want to miss this.