Thunder-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers may not have any of their injured players back as the club tries to avoid its first six-game slide in six seasons.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will arrive in Los Angeles with some recent experience against short-handed teams.

The Thunder return to Staples Center for the first time since last season's playoffs Friday night when they try to add to the Lakers' woes as the Western Conference's top scorers - Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant - again match up.

Los Angeles (15-20) completed a two-game trip earlier this week without Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip). Howard and Hill will not play Friday while Gasol has not been ruled out.

Forwards Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark received more minutes in Tuesday's 125-112 loss to Houston and Wednesday's 108-105 defeat at San Antonio. Bryant scored 27 on Wednesday.

"We have lost five games in a row, it is pretty self explanatory," Bryant said. "We played very hard and I think we figured a few things out. We still have to straighten some things out on the defensive end but I feel like we competed and that was very important."

Los Angeles last dropped six in a row during a seven-game slide March 2-15, 2007.

The Lakers did not have Gasol or Steve Nash when they fell 114-108 at Oklahoma City on Dec. 7 in the lone previous matchup this season. Durant outscored Bryant 36-35, with Russell Westbrook adding 33 for the Thunder (27-8).

That was the teams' first meeting since last season's West semifinal series won by the Thunder in five games. Oklahoma City's last game at Los Angeles was a 103-100 victory in Game 4 when it rallied from a 13-point deficit with 8:02 left as Durant hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go before Bryant missed his tying attempt on the Lakers' next possession.

The Thunder will be facing another opponent missing key players. They lost 101-99 at Washington on Monday even through the Wizards had three players out before bouncing back Wednesday for a 106-84 rout of a Minnesota team playing without All-Star forward Kevin Love and four other injured players.

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks mentioned before shootaround that Minnesota was in the same situation as Washington. Brooks could provide a similar theme for this game.

"Everybody locked in and focused in on Minnesota tonight," Brooks said. "I was glad they came out, and I knew they would. We've always been a team that takes pride in how we play, and they did tonight."

With Bryant averaging 30.1 points and Durant 28.1, it's not surprising that these teams are among the best in scoring with Oklahoma City averaging 105.4 and Los Angeles 103.2.

The Thunder figure to have an edge defensively in the paint with Howard and his 2.6 blocks per game out. Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka is the only West player with a better average of 2.9 blocks.

Westbrook has averaged 21.8 points and 8.2 assists in his last six meetings with Nash - all wins for Oklahoma City - with the former Phoenix guard averaging 10.5 points and 9.2 assists in those defeats.

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