After winning eight on the trot, the Thunder are now on a three game losing streak following a 100-114 defeat at the hands of the Pelicans. Westbrook struggled despite putting up a triple-double, going 7-21 from the field and turning it over nine times throughout the night.
They now sit at 30-23, enough to have them in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. On Sunday, they will welcome a struggling Lakers team into Chesapeake Arena.
The Lakers made it five wins in seven games when they beat the Nets 102-99. In Brook Lopez’s return to Barclays Center he had 19 points, while Brandon Ingram flirted with a triple-double with 16 points, eight rebounds and ten assists.
They now sit at 20-31, and have separated themselves from the bottom four teams in the west. They are in 11th place in the standings.
Three keys to the game
Westbrook’s efficiency - Since December, Westbrook has improved his play significantly, becoming more efficient and easier to play with. Unsurprisingly, that coincided with OKC’s spike in form, and so it comes as no surprise that their recent losing streak has seen him return to his less productive self. He is 19-57 (33%) from the field in these games, and has averaged 6.3 turnovers (though in fairness he has also averaged 15 assists). OKC are a better team when he plays under control, and they will be hoping he can recapture his January form sooner rather than later.
Form - OKC are clearly the better team in this game, but the formlines of the two teams suggest the opposite. The Lakers are 5-2 in their past seven games, and have had impressive victories over the Celtics, the Pacers and the Knicks. In contrast, OKC are struggling, having gone down to a John Wall-less Wizards, the Nuggets and the Pelicans in their past three outings.
Lakers fatigue? - This will be the final game of a five game road trip for the Lakers. They have flown cross-country to Toronto, travelled down the East Coast, and now head to Oklahoma City. Their youth must surely make them more prone to fatigue, and though they have impressively split the road trip 2-2 so far, they must surely be running out of gas.
Matchup to watch
Brandon Ingram vs Paul George - One of the smoothest players and best two-way guys in the league will be hoping to teach a few lessons to a young star in this game. George is having a terrific season, averaging 21.6 points while shooting 42.2% from beyond the arc, 5.4 rebounds, three assists and a huge 2.2 steals, and he was deservedly rewarded with a late call up to the all-star game. Ingram has taken a leap forward this year, averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, and in his last four games is averaging 17-7-6. He will have his work cut out against one of the better one-on-one defenders in the league in George, and it will be fascinating to see how the young star goes against one of the most established players in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder predicted starting lineup
PG - Russell Westbrook | SG - Terrence Ferguson | SF - Paul George | PF - Carmelo Anthony | C - Steven Adams
Los Angeles Lakers predicted starting lineup
PG - Josh Hart | SG - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | SF - Brandon Ingram | PF - Julius Randle | C - Brook Lopez
In OKC’s three games last season against the Lakers, Westbrook’s numbers need to be seen to be believed. In these matchups, he averaged 28 points, 12.3 rebounds, 15.3 assists (!), two steals and a customary seven turnovers.
George has enjoyed his 11 career outings against the Lakers, averaging 20.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and two steals a night in these games.
The Lakers have been given a huge 10.5 point head start by oddsmakers, and they are a good bet to cover this line. They won’t win, but they are in good form and despite their lengthy road trip, should be able to hold on to cover the 10.5 point line.
If the Lakers were going to beat the Thunder, this would be the time to do it. They are playing excellent basketball and OKC have been slipping. Unfortunately for Los Angeles though, they are likely tiring after a gruelling five game road trip.
The Lakers have plenty of young talent, while the Thunder have plenty of talent in their prime, meaning this will be an entertaining game to watch. Ultimately though, OKC will be too good for the young Lakers, and will run out 110-103 winners.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC. Tip-off is at 2pm ET.