Oklahoma City (13-13) at Los Angeles (22-4)

  • Game info: 10:30 pm EST Tue Dec 22, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Kobe Bryant(notes) feels the NBA-leading Los Angeles Lakers can improve, while Kevin Durant(notes) and the Oklahoma CIty Thunder are trying to climb back above .500.

Bryant looks to help the red-hot Lakers continue their dominance of Durant and the struggling Thunder on Tuesday night.

The Lakers (22-4) have picked up where they left off, holding the best record in the NBA after winning a 15th league title last season.

They’ve won 15 of 16 after winning 93-81 at Detroit on Sunday, concluding a five-game road trip with four consecutive victories.

“It’s a great sign,” said Bryant, who scored 28 points, of the trip. “We believe we can be better and we will be better because we push each other.”

Bryant, whose 28.8 points per game rank second behind Denver’s Carmelo Anthony(notes) (30.5), has been superb during the last four games, averaging 34.5 points on 51.0 percent shooting. That surge has come after he endured his worst shooting performance of the season, making 7 of 24 shots - 1 for 9 from beyond the arc - in a 102-94 loss at Utah on Dec. 12.

Bryant, last season’s NBA Finals MVP, has also thrived against Oklahoma City (13-13), averaging 33.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting to help the Lakers win the last 11 meetings since a loss April 6, 2007, when the Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics.

Los Angeles has won both matchups this season, including a 101-85 victory behind Bryant’s 22 points at Staples Center on Nov. 22. The Lakers have won six straight in the series at home, and are riding a 10-game winning streak overall at Staples Center, where they are 15-2 this season.

The Thunder have dropped four of five following Saturday’s 95-90 loss at Houston. Durant made 6 of 18 shots and finished with 13 points, while Oklahoma City converted 2 of 12 from 3-point range.

“We’re gonna get better,” said coach Scott Brooks. “We’re improving. We’ve got a lot of basketball left and a lot of games to get better with.”

Durant, fourth in the NBA at 27.2 points per game, has been inconsistent of late. The forward had 27 points in a 109-98 win over the Pistons on Friday, two nights after tying his season low with 12 points on 4 for 18 shooting in a 100-86 loss to Dallas.

He’s averaging 23.7 points in nine games against the Lakers, whom he has never beaten.

Oklahoma City has won all 11 games when scoring more than 100 points and is 2-11 when allowing 100.

The Lakers average 103.3 points, and have topped the century mark in the last 18 meetings with Oklahoma City, winning 15.

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Tuesday, Dec 22