|Oklahoma City||122||Pace: 94.6||129.0||52.1||31.8||1.8||25.0|
Kobe Bryant (LAL) — 30 pts, 8/19 FGs
Russell Westbrook (OKC) — 37 pts, 10 rebs, 5 assts
Los Angeles Lakers (30-30) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-16)
The Lakers have made it back to .500. That normally is not a cause celebre in Laker-land, not with that Hall of Fame lineup and those championship expectations. Yet, Sunday's win over Atlanta proved to be an important morale-boosting win for the Lakers. Getting back to .500 is a sign Los Angeles is closer to its goal.
That goal might be just making the playoffs at the moment. That is something nobody thought they would say.
The goal is indeed getting closer and the Lakers are making ground. But for every step forward Los Angeles seems to make, the team meets a road block that keeps it from getting over the top. Not to mention that the Jazz and the Rockets have to help by losing soem games to allow Los Angeles to get back into the Playoff picture.
The Lakers though inevitably will not have home court advantage. So winning on the road against one of the top teams in the West is a must for this team.
Enter tonight's game against Oklahoma City.
The Lakers have proven able to beat the Thunder at Staples Center this year. They are capable. And no team at the top of the West has to want to see the Lakers lining up against them in mid-April.
None of that will matter if the Lakers do not score that victory over the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Tonight's game may not only be a Playoff preview, it might be a huge confidence boost for the Lakers heading to the postseason.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The Thunder have officially signed Derek Fisher and there is some turmoil about this signing. He originally signed with the Mavericks at the beginning of the season but left shortly thereafter to be with his family. Now with the Playoffs heating up, he decided to come back. But with the Thunder. Mark Cuban and Dallas was admittedly peeved. Fisher though said he was being honest at the time. Just like he is now.
-Dwight Howard is continuing to go out of his way to infuriate Magic fans. He told the Los Angeles CBS affiliate that his teams in Orlando were full of players nobody wanted. The Lakers play the Magic in Orlando on March 12.
Tonight's Other Games
Paul Pierce (BOS) — 18 pts, 11 rebs, 7 assts
Thaddeus Young (PHI) — 19 pts, 10 rebs
Boston Celtics (31-27) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (23-35)
The Celtics roster seems to be an ever-shifting thing. Shavlik Randolph was just recently signed and so was Terrence Williams. It is all part of the plan to stay in the Playoff race and boost a depleted backcourt while helping give Kevin Garnett some time off. What the truth might actually be is that Boston is not the team it used to be and is holding on to whatever they can.
Ty Lawson (DEN) — 24 pts, 7 assts
Marcus Thornton (SAC) — 32 pts, 5/11 3FGs
Denver Nuggets (39-22) vs. Sacramento Kings (21-40)
Kevin Johnson's coalition to keep basketball in Sacramento is growing. Former Kings guard Mitch Richmond is joining the group hoping to buy the Kings from the Maloofs. The deal also will include the option to try and bring a WNBA team back to Sacramento after the Monarch folded a few years ago. The Kings' fans have also planned another Here We Buy night to sell out Power Balance Pavilion.
Orlando Magic (16-44) vs. New Orleans Hornets (21-39)
Things are bad for the Magic right now. Orlando has lost 31 of the past 35 games. Things seemed to be worse last night against Memphis at home. Orlando drew its smallest crowd -- a little north of 16,000 -- since moving into the Amway Center three years ago. While the Magic have nine home wins, going on the road might be a good thing for this team. They have a better win percentage on the road.
Dwyane Wade (MIA) -- 32 pts, 10 assts, 7 rebs
Derrick Williams (MIN) -- 25 pts, 10 rebs
Miami Heat (43-14) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-36)
The Heat have signed Juwan Howard to a 10-day contract. Why might you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. The Heat say Howard was a good locker room presence and they want him back in the lineup. That is as good a reason as any other. Tonight against the undermanned Timberwolves, Miami will not need Howard. LeBron James got knicked up in New York but he should be fine to wreak havoc in Minneapolis.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA) -- 17 pts, 10 rebs, 8/11 FGs
LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) -- 23 pts, 14 rebs
Charlotte Bobcats (13-46) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (27-31)
With the New Orleans Hornets becoming the New Orleans Pelicans next year, the Bobcats are in a strange place. The Charlotte Bobcats are thinking of reaquiring the Hornets name and retaking the name of their original NBA franchise (before they moved to New Orleans). Michael Jordan and the Bobcats organization announced it is reviewing whether fans want the name to return by hiring a polling company.
|Golden State||125||Pace: 102.3||122.2||62.2||17.6||12.9||34.1|
Amir Johnson (TOR) -- 23 pts, 15 rebs
Stephen Curry (GSW) -- 26 pts, 12 assts, 5 rebs
Toronto Raptors (23-37) vs. Golden State Warriors (33-27)
The Warriors have sort of fallen off since that fast start and are dangerously close to falling out of the Playoff race. Maybe a little more dangerous than you would have thought at the beginning of the season. The key though is staying together particularly on the defensive end. Stephen Curry has been providing plenty of offense lately.
|L.A. Clippers||106||Pace: 93.4||113.4||61.8||23.1||14.6||34.2|
Gerald Henderson (CHA) -- 24 pts, 12/19 FGs
Blake Griffin (LAC) -- 24 pts, 7 rebs, 6 assts
Charlotte Bobcats (33-43) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)
If there is any more sign that the Clippers culture has changed, it is seen in a tweet Jamal Crawford sent out earlier today. Crawford called the Clippers the best organization he has been with top-to-bottom. When the wins are going well, even a blind dog finds a bone, I guess.
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) -- 25 pts, 7 rebs, 10/17 FGs
Ryan Anderson (NOH) -- 20 pts, 12 rebs, 7/11 FGs
Dallas Mavericks (24-29) vs. New Orleans Hornets (19-36)
The Mavericks made a minor move in acquiring Anthony Morrow at the trade deadline. But he comes with some big praise. Coach Rick Carlisle called Morrow the best shooter he has seen aside from Chris Mullin. That might be going a bit far perhaps. But Morrow is a strong 3-point shooter and should help spread the floor if Dallas intends on making the Playoffs this year.
|Oklahoma City||127||Pace: 102.7||123.7||63.3||25.8||16.3||26.5|
Alexey Shved (MIN) -- 17 pts, 7/12 FGs
Russell Westbrook (OKC) -- 37 pts, 7 rebs, 9 assts
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-15)
It might have been a minor move, but it will rock international basketball. After Russia's strong performance in the 2012 Olympics, they not only will lose their coach but also their best player. Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko announced his retirement from international competition, ending a very successful and decorated tenure in FIBA basketball.
Jeff Green (BOS) -- 31 pts, 7 rebs, 11/14 FGs
Goran Dragic (PHX) -- 19 pts, 10 assts
Boston Celtics (28-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-37)
There was definite talk that Kevin Garnett was going to get traded out west to the Clippers. That ended up not happening for a variety of reasons. One was Garnett being unwilling to waive his no trade clause. Another might have been the internal disagreements within the Clippers about the best move. In the end, Boston made a relatively minor move to bring in Jordan Crawford and inject some scoring. It will be interesting to see whether this veteran team can finish.
|L.A. Lakers||111||Pace: 104.0||106.8||50.6||25.5||13.8||40.0|
J.J. Hickson (POR) -- 22 pts, 11 rebs
Kobe Bryant (LAL) -- 40 pts, 15/23 FGs
Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (26-29)
With Mark Cuban jokingly saying the Lakers should amnesty Kobe Bryant to get away from crushing luxury tax debt, the Lakers were guaranteeing they would make the Playoffs. That is definitley the mindset Kobe Bryant has and his teammates -- particularly Dwight Howard, Mike D'Antoni and Pau Gasol -- concurred. So now the season starts anew... again. A big game against another Playoff-hungry team should give all the motivation necessary.--->