The Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) sit atop the Western Conference with 16 games to go in the regular season and lead the entire NBA in scoring per game at 103.7. Tonight they venture to SoCal to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, leaders of the Pacific Division at 31-19 and a rugged 20-4 at Staples.
NBA scoring leader Kobe Bean Bryant (28.3) will be welcoming back longtime backcourt mate Derek Fisher. D-Fish, who was traded two weeks ago to the Houston Rockets and then bought out and signed by the ring-hungry Thunder, played 13 years for the Lake Show and helped them win five championships over that span. Look for the Hollywood crowd and ex-mates to give Fisher lots of audible love.
This evening’s 48 will be the second time these two sides have squared off this compacted season. On February 23rd in OKC, the Thunder brought some lightning in the form of MVP candidate Kevin Durant. KD had 33 points on 12 of 22 shooting, and OKC won 100-85. Durant, the 2X NBA scoring champion, currently sits just below the Mamba at 27.8 ppg.
Coach Mike Brown’s crew played on Tuesday night at Golden State and prevailed 104-101. Kobe had 30, Pau Gasol pulled down 17 boards and C Andrew Bynum had a seat on the bench after jacking up an ill-advised,
bizarre 3-bomb. A few Laker players, including Bryant, have clashed with Brown in his first year at the helm of the team. Brown is in a tough spot taking over one of the league’s most scrutinized teams for the 11 X champ Phil Jackson.
The Thunder have the second best road team in the NBA with a 16-8 record away from the Sooner State. On Tuesday in Portland, PG Russell Westbrook brought the sizzle. The one-time UCLA Bruin and LA native went 16-26 for 32 points and dished out 8 dimes in OKC’s 109-95 victory. KD went 10-14 for 25 points in the game.
A ‘W’ tonight would mean a lot to both sides. The Lakers sit just 2 games above their intra-arena rivals the Clips for the division. And though the Thunder lead the West, they have the surging, deep, veteran Spurs on their heels, trailing the 1-seed by only 2.5 games.
As the usual entertainment stars from stage and screen align in their primo seats, the historical, milestone variety will cosmically line up too. Fifty years ago today, Laker HOF teammates Elgin Baylor and Jerry West became the first and only teammates to both score 40 or more points in a playoff game. Interestingly, the tandem of Durant and Westbrook has accomplished this feat twice just this season.
Tune in to TNT, Marv and me at 10:30 PM ET to watch these Western Conference stalwarts do battle.