NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, January 11th (All times Eastern)
Oklahoma City Thunder (27-8) at Los Angeles Lakers (15-20), 10:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Oklahoma City Thunder can become the latest team to add to the Los Angeles Lakers' misery when the two square off on Friday at Staples Center.
Los Angeles, of course, will be without center Dwight Howard, who is nursing a shoulder injury, as well as forward Jordan Hill, who is out with a hip ailment. However, the team hasn't officially ruled out forward Pau Gasol from returning from a concussion.
The Lakers could have used that trio on Wednesday when they lost their fifth straight game, falling 108-105 to San Antonio.
Kobe Bryant ended with 27 points for the Lakers. Metta World Peace added 23 points, eight rebounds and seven steals, while Earl Clark had 22 points and 13 boards in a losing cause.
"We have lost five games in a row, it is pretty self explanatory," Bryant said. "We played very hard and I think we figured a few things out. We still have to straighten some things out on the defensive end but I feel like we competed and that was very important."
Los Angeles, which last dropped six in a row during a seven-game slide March 2-15, 2007, will be starting a four-game stretch at home where they are 10-8 on the year.
Oklahoma City, meanwhile, bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Washington to beat the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. Kevin Durant scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the 106-84 win.
Russell Westbrook accumulated 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Kevin Martin contributed 19 points off the bench to the rout.
Oklahoma City shot 55.3 percent in the second half to pull away while making 11-of-20 attempts from 3-point range for the game, with Martin going 4-of-7 from long distance and Westbrook knocking down 3-of-4 tries from beyond the arc.
"I thought our defense was good throughout the game," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "We started out with solid defensive execution, and in the second half our offense caught up with it."
The Thunder beat Los Angeles earlier in the year, but the Lakers were without Steve Nash. Oklahoma took two of three from the Lakers last season before beating them in five games in last year's Western Conference semifinals.
01/11 10:32:07 ET