Preview: Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Hitting the road with a two-game losing streak, the Lakers (10-11) visit the Oklahoma City Thunder (17-4) on Friday night.
The Thunder have won four in a row and 12 of their last 13 games.
The Lakers will play without a true point guard with Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Steve Nash (back) all out with injuries. Point guard duties will fall to Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and Jodie Meeks - all out of position.
Kobe Bryant has played just two games this season, averaging 14.5 points a game on 40% shooting from the field. Clearly rusty, Bryant has 11 turnovers in 57 minutes, although most were in his debut against the Toronto Raptors.
Now Bryant will be asked to play point guard against one of the best in the league in Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is averaging 21.2 points a game for the Thunder, along with 6.4 assists and 2.0 steals.
Under normal circumstances, Bryant has often guarded Westbrook with the Lakers’ point guard taking the less threatening Thabo Sefolosha.
If Bryant wasn’t ready for a heavy responsibility, he had better adjust quickly. The Lakers don’t have anyone else to play the position -- except perhaps Henry and/or Meeks in spot minutes.
Kevin Durant isn’t necessarily the X-factor, he’s one of the top scorers in the league.
It’s Wesley Johnson, presumably Coach Mike D’Antoni’s answer defensively that could make a difference for the Lakers.
Johnson has arguably been the Lakers’ best defender this season. He’s averaging a team-high 1.48 blocks and 1.19 steals a game.
While Johnson isn’t a consistent scorer (8.2 a game), if he can slow Durant just a bit while adding a minor offensive boost for his team, perhaps the Lakers can steal a win on the road.
Defensively, Serge Ibaka will make scoring difficult for Pau Gasol, who has struggled this season, averaging 14.4 points a game on 41.7% shooting.
The Lakers are still trying to reintegrate Bryant after playing 19 games without the All-Star guard.
The point guard injuries, along with Gasol’s struggles, put the Lakers at a significant disadvantage against the Thunder.
Steve Blake out at least six weeks, Lakers have no healthy point guards
First up for ‘point guard’ Kobe Bryant? All-Star Russell Westbrook
Kobe Bryant responds to Jim Brown slight
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.
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