Lakers power forward Pau Gasol battles for a rebound with Thunder power… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It's hard for the Lakers to forget whom they're playing Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder giving them fits in a first-round playoff tussle last season that could have gone either way after four games.
But there's confusion because of one question: Who's on the Thunder these days?
Oklahoma City was one of many teams at the trade deadline making substantial changes to its roster, giving up youth and outside touch for brawn down low.
The Thunder acquired former Boston banger Kendrick Perkins and veteran Charlotte center Nazr Mohammed while trading three-point-shooting power forward Jeff Green and lightly regarded center Nenad Kristic.
In other words, Oklahoma City was tired of getting pushed around. The new roster will be somewhat on display Sunday against the Lakers, though Perkins is expected to sit out another week because of a sprained left knee.
"They're deeper in the paint and now they'll get more presence in the paint," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "I guess they feel like they'll need it because our presence is so strong."
The Thunder (36-21) didn't fare so well in its first game after Thursday's deadline, getting crushed by Orlando, 111-88. Neither Perkins nor Mohammed played. Neither did another acquisition from Boston, quick point guard Nate Robinson.
Still, the Lakers (41-19), who have a three-game winning streak, are curious to discover more about the Thunder.
"They're different," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We'll see if they're better. They're going to be more of a bang 'em, sock 'em type of team."
Green, 24, averaged 15.2 points and made 56 three-pointers in 49 games with the Thunder this season.
Perkins averaged 7.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in only 12 games for Boston since returning from off-season knee surgery. Mohammed was Charlotte's backup center, but he burned the Lakers for 16 points in 24 minutes two weeks ago. Robinson has averaged 7.1 points in 17.9 minutes a game this season.
Play it again
Clippers rookie Blake Griffin has played against Kobe Bryant only three times in his brief career, but even he knows it's almost impossible to stop a 13-time All-Star on a roll.
Bryant had 18 points in the third quarter Friday night, making eight of 11 shots to drive the Lakers to a 108-95 victory over the Clippers.
"You just try to slow it down and try to get in his way," Griffin said. "And try to alter his shots. I thought we did a poor job of getting in his way a little bit and making it a little tougher. A lot of those shots he had were uncontested. But he hit them. You've got to give him credit."
Veteran guard Randy Foye has seen it plenty of times.
"That's what he does," Foye said. "He's been doing it forever."
Griffin had a quiet night, making seven of 18 shots, and the Lakers pounded the Clippers in the paint, 38-18. The Lakers led by as many as 26 before a meaningless Clippers rally.
The Lakers have reversed course after a three-game losing streak going into the All-Star break. What's been different?
"It's the difference of we're getting down to the last 20 games of the season," Pau Gasol said. "We want to position ourselves well in the playoff [seedings]."
The Lakers have the NBA's sixth-best record and are third in the West.
Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.