Surging Lakers tangle with Thunder in OKC
(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Lakers got to .500 for the first time in months, but staying above that mark will be tricky when they head to Oklahoma City to meet the Thunder.
The Lakers have won five of their last six, but are just 1-2 in their most recent road games. To make things more difficult, the Thunder are a stout 26-4 at home, which is third-best in the NBA, and have won three straight in their own building by an average of 30.3 points.
The Lakers' recent success has been due primarily to the great play of future Hall-of-Famer, Kobe Bryant. The Western Conference Player of the Month in February, Bryant is averaging 34.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5.8 apg while shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line over his last five games.
"He's turned it up," said Steve Nash. "He's been scoring at a high efficiency rate, he's shooting the ball, he's attacking the basket and he looks as good as he's ever looked."
L.A. has won its last two games, both at home. They held off the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, thanks to 34 from Bryant. Dwight Howard had 11 points and 15 rebounds and Nash chipped in 15 points and 10 assists.
Tuesday night could be a struggle for the Lakers, containing the Thunder's potent offense. OKC ranks second in the league at 106.7 ppg and the Lakers' defense hasn't really come around all season. Los Angeles is tied for 23rd in opponents' scoring at 101.1 ppg.
"You got to try to take away the easy ones as much as possible," Bryant said at practice on Monday.
The Thunder return to OKC after splitting a two-game road trip. They lost a heart-breaker in Denver on Friday when Ty Lawson won it late, then marched into the Staples Center on Sunday and bested the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-104.
The Clips clawed back and actually took the lead with 90 seconds to go, but the Thunder closed the game 9-4 to get their fourth win in their last five outings.
"We've grown up a lot as a team," Kevin Durant told ESPN after the game. "We've been through situations like this. We just kept saying, 'Weather the storm, it'll get better.' I think we did a great job of moving the ball and finding the open guy. We got a good win."
Durant led the way with 35 points and nine rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 29 and handed out 10 assists and Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin both scored in double digits.
There's still no word on whether Ibaka will receive any punishment from the NBA after an incident in the Clippers game. Late in the contest, Ibaka hit Blake Griffin of the Clippers below the belt. Ibaka was assessed a flagrant foul, but was not ejected.
Derek Fisher, signed just last week by the Thunder, will face his old team on Tuesday. Fisher won five NBA titles in his tenure with the Lakers.
The Thunder have won two of three this season against the Lakers, but Los Angeles won most recently, a 105-96 victory in L.A. on Jan. 27. The Lakers have lost three of their last four in OKC.
03/05 10:43:48 ET