NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, April 10th (All times eastern)
Oklahoma City Thunder (53-26) at Los Angeles Lakers (55-24), 9:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Lakers will try not to lose out on the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference when they begin the final homestand of the regular season tonight versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center.
The two-time defending champion Lakers have lost four in a row since winning nine straight, and sit one game ahead of Dallas and two games in front of Oklahoma City for the second seed in the West with three to go.
Los Angeles will also welcome top-seeded San Antonio to Hollywood before closing out the regular season schedule with a road bout against Pacific Division-rival Sacramento next Wednesday. The division-champion Lakers recently suffered a 93-86 loss in Portland on Friday, as MVP candidate Kobe Bryant posted 24 points and Lamar Odom ended with 13 and 14 rebounds.
"We were lazy and inefficient in the first half," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "In the second half we just didn't buckle down and do the right thing offensively in that third quarter. These guys just don't want to play harder."
Ron Artest had 13 points and Pau Gasol chipped in eight and 13 rebounds in the loss for the Lakers, who made just 39.5 percent of their shots and committed 17 turnovers for 13 Portland points. The Lakers are 29-10 as the host and haven't lost five in a row since a seven-game slide from March 2-15, 2007.
Oklahoma City has been on fire since March, having won three straight and 17 of its last 21 games, including Friday's 104-89 victory over the Northwest Division-rival Denver Nuggets in the OKC.
Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer at 27.8 ppg, led the charge with 28 points and has scored 20-plus points in 14 consecutive games, averaging 26.9 points per night in that span. Russell Westbrook added 17 points, eight assists and six steals for the Thunder, who won the Northwest Division title with Wednesday's win over the LA Clippers and sit fourth in the West standings, just a game behind No. 3 Dallas with three remaining.
Nazr Mohammed and James Harden scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, off the bench in a winning effort.
"That was a really good defensive performance," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "We protected the paint and we made them take tough shots. Our guys really battled."
The Thunder will also visit Sacramento on the brief road trip and are 23-16 away from Okie City this season. They will close out the 2010-11 regular season next week at home versus Milwaukee.
Oklahoma City will try to avoid being swept by the Lakers in the season series after dropping the first two meetings of the season. LA has won 14 of the past 15 matchups with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise. The Thunder are winless in eight straight contests at the Lakers.
04/10 10:52:32 ET