Thunder-Lakers Preview


Given the way the Oklahoma City Thunder have been scoring lately, putting up another big point total should be no trouble against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Thunder take the league's hottest offensive attack into Los Angeles on Sunday to face a Lakers team which has been pathetic defensively as the Western Conference's first- and last-place teams square off.

Since Feb. 28, Oklahoma City (46-16) has been the top-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 119.0 points in four games on 51.4 percent shooting. Kevin Durant has led the way, putting up 35.3 points per game to boost his league-high scoring average to 31.8.

The Thunder won the first three games of that stretch but dropped their most recent contest, 128-122 at Phoenix on Thursday despite 36 points from Russell Westbrook and 34 from Durant. Defense let them down, blowing a 16-point lead and allowing 40 in the third quarter. The Suns went 15 of 27 from 3-point range, the second-most 3-pointers Oklahoma City has allowed this season.

"It's just defending and being locked in for four straight quarters," Westbrook said. "We had some good five-minute stretches throughout the game, but we have to play all 48 minutes."

"We can score with the best of them and can score on anybody, anytime, but we have to be able to stop people from scoring."

No team has had more trouble stopping opponents from scoring than the Lakers. They've allowed a league-worst 112.5 points per game since Jan. 1. Things have gone from bad to worse in the past three games as Los Angeles has given up an average of 136.0 points on 56.3 percent shooting.

Not surprisingly, the Lakers (21-42) lost all three contests, the latest happening Friday in a 134-126 defeat at Denver. They became the first team since Golden State in 2008 to allow 130 or more points in three consecutive games. No team has done it in four straight since Denver in 1990.

"I know I'm tired of it and our team's tired of it," center Robert Sacre said. "Our defense needs to get better. That's the key, our defense. If we give guys an average of 140 points a night, that's not good enough."

Pau Gasol has averaged 24.2 points in the last five games as Los Angeles averaged 115.6, but opponents have scored 127.2 per game.

Though they held the Thunder under 130 points in both meetings this season, the Lakers lost both as Durant averaged 37.0 points.

The Thunder have won 12 of 15 against the Lakers, including the 2012 playoffs, with Durant scoring more than 30 points in 11 of those games.

The teams play again Thursday in Oklahoma City. The Thunder will host Houston between contests with the Lakers, while Los Angeles will have three days off between the games.

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