Los Angeles Lakers: Nazr Mohammed

Lakers vs. Thunder: What to Watch with Matt Pinto

February, 27, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
No team made a bigger statement at the trade deadline than the Oklahoma City Thunder. In acquiring Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson from the Celtics, plus Nazr Mohammed in a separate deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, a message was clear. The Thunder are quite serious about making a deep playoff run, even if it means going through the two-time defending champs. The addition of Perkins -- he of the track record of interior D success against the Lakers -- feels particularly like a step taken to battle the Lakers. If that means sacrificing, among others, Jeff Green, a young player with potential and popular with the brass and teammates, so be it.

The new-look Thunder adds a wrinkle to an already intriguing showdown. (Perkins is still recovering from a knee injury, but the other Thunderians should suited up for Sunday's battle.) After coming up short against in a grueling six game series last season, plus a tough loss at Staples on MLK Day, the upstarts are surely out to stand their ground against the purple and gold. In the meantime, the Lakers are riding a three-game winning streak and are resembling their championship selves.

Something, as the saying goes, must give.

For perspective on the Thunder, we were joined this weekend on ESPN LA On Air by Matt Pinto, radio play-by-play man for OKC. Here is a transcript of the conversation.

On the team's reaction to the blockbuster deal:

Harry How/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum will be trying to break down two different defenders against OKC.

"We were on the road when the deal came down after a tough loss in San Antonio on Wednesday and then the players learned of the trade on Thursday, and then played in Orlando (Friday). I think they were still a little shell shocked. The majority of the roster is young and has never really gone through any sort of mid-season roster alteration. This group is really unique in that they're really close. They're all about the same age, the core nucleus we're talking about. And it's almost like a college atmosphere. I think the guys you really look to carry the mail took the departure of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic and D.J. White and Mo Pete really hard. I think they will adjust. They'll need to adjust.

"In terms of what the big picture looks like, once Kendrick Perkins come back from the minor knee injury he suffered early last week, suddenly this team is much tougher. Much more formidable on the interior, which clearly was an area of need. When you throw Perkins' presence and scowl, willingness to take a hard foul, girth and understanding for what it takes to stop some of the big men in the NBA inside, along with Nazr Mohammed's experience, and a big frame and a big body as well, suddenly I think this team, in the big picture, becomes a bit more of a factor and a force in the western conference.

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Friday's number: .714 (with juicy nuggets for LA vs. Charlotte)

March, 5, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
That would be the home winning percentage of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Yes, the 28-31 Bobcats, currently out of the playoff race in the weak sister Eastern Conference, are a fairly dominant team at Time Warner Cable Arena, with 20 wins in 28 tries. While you'd think their problems historically against the Bobcats would make this sort of thing unnecessary, Charlotte's home mark, fourth best in the E.C. and eighth in the NBA, serves as a stark reminder the Lakers need to bring a solid effort into tonight's game (4 pm PT, KCAL).

This isn't an easy game to preview. On monitor, it's a game the Lakers should win. The same could have been said for Thursday's loss in Miami. Nor can much be drawn from the first time these teams got together this season back on February 3rd, a 99-97 squeaker for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant was hobbled with a bad ankle, for one thing, scoring only five points. Meanwhile, Gerald Wallace didn't play for Charlotte, and Tyrus Thomas was still a Chicago Bull.

Tyson Chandler missed the game as well, but could be back in uniform tonight.

One thing is fairly certain: Had the Lakers turned the ball over that evening (seven times) like they did last night in Miami (16), they'd have lost. Had they defended the three point line that night (Charlotte was 6-20) as they did Thursday (Miami hit on nine of 19), they'd have lost.

A few more items to consider before settling in for the game:

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0