Lakers-Thunder Preview

Though the Los Angeles Lakers have played well of late, it still

might not be enough to cool off the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Tied for the best record in the NBA, the Thunder look to extend

their home winning streak to 12 games Thursday night when they face

the Lakers for the first time this season.

Los Angeles (20-13) won its second straight and fifth in six

games, 96-91 at Dallas on Wednesday. The Lakers also have won three

of five on the road, but visit an Oklahoma City team that’s 14-1 at

home.

Tied with Miami for the NBA’s best record, the Thunder (26-7)

have averaged 107.9 points on 50.5 percent shooting during an

11-game home winning streak that followed a 103-93 loss to Portland

on Jan. 3. The Thunder last won 12 straight at home twice during

the 1997-98 season when based in Seattle.

The Lakers have won their last two visits to Oklahoma City,

including playoffs, but had their four-game overall winning streak

against the Thunder snapped with a 120-106 home loss April 10.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points in that contest and Russell

Westbrook added 26 for the Thunder. Durant has averaged 24.8 points

in 20 career regular and postseason games against the Lakers.

Westbrook, meanwhile, averaged 26.7 with 8.3 assists while the

Thunder dropped two of three to Los Angeles in 2010-11.

Westbrook scored 31 while Durant added 28, nine rebounds and six

assists as the Thunder used a 30-3 first-half run en route to a

119-104 win over Boston on Wednesday. Oklahoma City shot 50.0

percent from the field, including 9 of 19 from 3-point range.

“When a guy is open you have to hit him and you have to knock

down your shots,” reserve Royal Ivey told the Thunder’s official

website. “Having that continuity is great with this group of guys.

We have shooters on this team, so when you find an open guy, you’re

hoping that guy knocks the shot down.”

Los Angeles shot 46.1 percent against the reigning NBA champion

Mavericks, but stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each missed a pair

of free throws with less than 40 seconds left to allow Dallas to

hang around. The Lakers were an ugly 18 of 31 from the free-throw

line for the night.

“(This win) shows we’re on the same page and we’ve got a lot of

character,” Gasol said.

Bryant averaged 32.0 points on 50.7 percent shooting in the

previous three games, but went 4 of 15 from the floor and finished

with 15 points Wednesday. He’s averaged 26.7 in 20 regular season

and playoff games against the Thunder since Durant entered the

league in 2007-08.

Gasol had 24 with nine rebounds while Andrew Bynum added 19 and

14 boards Wednesday to help the Lakers improve to 6-11 away from

Staples Center.

This was a strong performance for Gasol during a week in which

Bryant stood behind his teammate by calling out the Lakers’

organization for their reported indecision on whether or not to

trade the 7-footer.

“I just try to put everything behind me,” Gasol said. “I just

try to play the game. I try to play aggressive.

Though Gasol has averaged 18.3 points overall during his career

against the Thunder franchise, he’s put up 13.8 per contest in four

road games since the team moved to Oklahoma City.