nba

Lakers face Thunder as season hits the halfway point

The Lakers are currently 19-21, which was also their record last season through 40 games.

LOS ANGELES — It’s funny. Well, probably not funny to the Laker faithful but they are 19-21 through 40 games this season. Their record through 40 games last season? 19-21.

This was what we probably didn’t envision with this season’s Lakers. Free agency went well and the Lakers talking about continuity got the fans very excited.

We have yet to see this continuity and consistency this season. We know that this group has been through injuries. But head coach Darvin Ham also tends to… experiment way more than he should. He’s used 11 different starting line-ups this season, which is actually not a lot compared to years past. But the inconsistent minutes for different players have been maddening and it has not done the Lakers any favors.

Well, they’d better get it together for this game. They did play well despite falling short against Utah (D’Angelo Russell scored a season-best 39 to silence his critics… temporarily). But coming into their house is the surprising 27-11 Oklahoma City Thunder.

He’s questionable coming into this game but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has become the unexpected superstar for the Thunder. If he plays, he’s definitely the #1 concern for the Lakers. How concerning? A three-level scorer averaging 31.5 points per game-concerning. SGA is incredibly efficient as he makes .603 of his threes and he gets to the paint at will. His three is good enough at .341 but he doesn’t shoot many (3.5 attempts per game) compared to his peers.

Of course, Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t alone. He has super rookie Chet Holmgren helping him wreck shop to the tune of 17.9 points, 7.3 boards, and 2.5 blocks. Chet is also a big man shooter as he’s made .395 of his threes (4.3 attempts per). Jalen Williams has become a reliable scorer (18.2 points). Josh Giddey has taken less of a role but is still a deadly playmaker and Lu Dort has improved his three-point shooting (.417 in 4.4 attempts) to go along with his rock solid defense. The Lakers also have to watch out for sharpshooting Isaiah Joe as well.

The Thunder are in the Top 5 of both offensive and defensive ratings. We’re not halfway through the campaign yet but those are signs that they’re top contenders.

Speaking of LeBron, he is also questionable going into Monday’s game. D’Angelo Russell is also questionable due to a non-COVID illness. As for Cam Reddish, who left early against Utah on Saturday because of knee soreness, he’ll be expected to miss some games for that very reason. Hope he gets better sooner than later.

The Lakers have already faced the Thunder twice and they have split their games. Nov. 30 may have been a schedule loss but they were coming off a blowout win against the Detroit Pistons (who continue to be hapless) the night before. The Thunder had a 17-4 run in the second quarter on their way to a 42-point period. OKC never looked back. Dec. 23 was a much better result for the Lakers as they snapped a four-game slide with somewhat of an upset W over the Thunder. LeBron James had a 40-burger to go along with 7 boards and 7 dimes. He also made all five of his threes in that game.

Can the Lakers snap their two-game losing skid with another victory over this excellent Thunder team? I don’t know. Roll a D20 and hope you get a 20 out of it. Until the Lakers find some sort of consistency from the player rotations to their offense to their defense to their coaching, this is what we’ll have to expect from them.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.