OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Sporting Alert) — The Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder square off in what is expected to be a their highly contested Western Conference semifinals series with Game 1 Monday night.
The opening game will be at the Chesapeake Energy Arena here in Oklahoma City.
The game will also see Metta World Peace of the Lakers and Oklahoma City’s James Harden on the court together for the first time since the former was ejected for throwing a flying elbow on the Thunder sixth man of the year on April 22.
Metta World Peace has also made it clear that they will be no handshake between the two when the contest gets started.
He has his reasons though.
“I don’t shake substitutes’ hands,” he said after his 15-point performance on his return from suspension against Denver.
“I shake everybody’s hand before the game, but Oklahoma City, they don’t shake hands,” he added. “Only some of them, but I don’t think they really shake hands before the game.
“Kendrick Perkins and now [Russell] Westbrook don’t shake hands, either. [Westbrook] used to shake hands, but now he don’t shake hands anymore.”
The Thunder got done with their first round series early after sweeping the defending champions Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Durant and his teammates have been out of competitive action for eight days.
Many believe that could affect them in the early goings of the contest, but could be too much for the Lakers, which were taken all the way to seven games against the Denver Nuggets.
Lakers had a light shootaround ahead of the game and head coach Mike Brown felt this one game a little too soon after Saturday’s 96-87 win.
“It does seem rushed,” said Brown following his team’s shootaround Monday. “That’s OK. This whole season felt rushed.”
Veteran guard Kobe Bryant echoed the same statement.
“This season, with the shortened season and it being a compacted schedule, games seem to come pretty quickly,” Bryant, a 16-year veteran, said on Monday.
Meanwhile, Bryant, who has an average of 24 points in the three games against the Thunder this season, is hoping to get back into the rhythm of putting down 27-plus, although he remains cautious of the “quick and athletic” Oklahoma team.
“They play very well together,” said Bryant, who also confirmed that he will be taking the responsibilty of marking the speedy Russell Westbrook.
“I’ll take the match,” he said, “and then we’ll see how it goes.”
Bryant says the challenge in guarding a player such as Westbrook is “his speedy and his athleticism” adding that the OKC point guard has “really turned himself into a good shooter.”