The Los Angeles Lakers (30-30) are travelling to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (43-16) in what promises to be a thrilling contest between two teams that direly need to pick up a win.
L.A. is in the midst of battling for its playoff life, as the team is currently sitting just behind the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz for one of the bottom seeds in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City is near the top of the division, attempting to stave off the Los Angeles Clippers while also making a run to surpass the San Antonio Spurs for first place down the stretch.
These implications are certainly going to make this one interesting, as neither team desires to concede a single point to their rival.
Will L.A. be able to tie up the season series with the Thunder, or will OKC finish the 2012-13 campaign with a 3-1 record against the Lake Show?
Keep reading to find out our prediction on the outcome of this game, the latest injury report, players to keep an eye on and much more.
When: Tuesday, March 5 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Lakers Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
PF Pau Gasol, Out, Foot
PF Jordan Hill, Out, Hip
Thunder Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
No major injuries to report
Key Storyline: Will Lakers Get Above .500?
L.A. battled Atlanta on Sunday night and escaped with a narrow, 99-98 victory over the Hawks in the Staples Center, but it has a much tougher matchup with the Thunder on Tuesday.
Should the Lakers walk away with the road victory, they will boast a record above .500 for the first time since November 20, when the team was 6-5 in the early goings of the season.
It’s been a rocky road to get back to respectability, to say the least, but there is still a lot of work the Lakers must do in order to secure a playoff seeding.
Notching a victory against OKC would be a giant step in the right direction, as L.A. proved it could knock off mediocre opponents (Boston, Portland, Dallas) since the All-Star Break ended but struggled against the feisty Denver Nuggets.
Once the Lakers pick up a “W” against a top-tier club, it should boost their confidence enough to make a late-season surge into the playoffs.
Will they get that big win on Tuesday? Check out our prediction below.
Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Kevin Durant
While these two elite scorers aren’t always going to be matched up with one another, it’ll be interesting to see how things are handled down the stretch.
If the game is on the line, there’s a good chance that the Black Mamba elects to switch to KD defensively, using his lockdown abilities to try and contain one of the better bucket generators the NBA has to offer.
When these squads last met, Bryant was instrumental in helping the Lakers get their first win in the series—scoring 21 points, dishing 14 assists and grabbing nine rebounds.
However, in the matchup prior, Durant was dominant. The lanky forward notched 42 points, grabbed eight boards and recorded five assists in a 15-point Thunder blowout.
Watch for these competitors to go back and forth throughout the evening, especially with so much at stake.
This contest could go either way, but we’re giving the edge to the home team here.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are simply the superior squad and have proven their mettle against the opposition on two separate occasions already in 2012-13.
Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the team are fresh off a huge, momentum-building road victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, and they should have no problem returning to OKC to deliver against the other Southern California-based team.
While Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and the rest of the L.A. stars will put up a fight, they don’t possess the youth and depth required to overcome a team as talented, quick and deep as the Thunder.
Don’t be surprised if this game comes down to the wire, but OKC should come out ahead.
Thunder 104 - Lakers 101