Lakers Draw Thunder, Again

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles LakersFresh off one of their best games of the season, a 114-110 victory over Oklahoma City at Staples Center, the Lakers draw … Oklahoma City.

It’s the rare home-road back-to-back contest against the same squad amidst the 82-game schedule, never an easy task for the team winning the first of the pair.

The difference in Sunday’s game was a career day for Jodie Meeks, who erupted for 42 points on only 18 field goal attempts. He outscored OKC 20-19 all by himself in a 36-19 edge for L.A. in the third quarter.

The Lakers also played the Thunder tough on Feb. 13 at Staples Center, leading Kevin Durant and Co. by 10 heading into the fourth quarter before ultimately falling 107-103 when Durant helped OKC outscore L.A. 35-21 in the fourth quarter. The MVP co-favorite with LeBron James scored 19 of his 43 in that final period (though Meeks can feel good that Durant needed 15 more shots to score one more point).

Earlier in the season, on Dec. 13, the Lakers were blown out 122-97 in Oklahoma City. That night, Kobe Bryant actually played point guard, as Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar were all hurt, and Kendall Marshall was still in the D-League. Bryant managed to dish 13 assists in his 23 minutes, but OKC was in control from the beginning.

Below are some Thunder notes ahead of the fourth and final meeting between the two teams:

1) OKC entirely dominated the Lakers on the offensive glass on Sunday, grabbing 19 offensive boards to a single one for the Lakers, leading to 19 more field goal attempts. That edge was only five at 20-15 in the December loss. They were 38-6 when out-boarding an opponent overall until Sunday’s loss (59-36 advantage).
2) Typical starters Kendrick Perkins (left groin strain) and Thabo Sefolosha (left calf strain) remain out with injuries. Steven Adams and Perry Jones made the start on Sunday, but combined for only seven points with six boards and one steal. Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Caron Butler all played more individual minutes than both Adams and Jones.
3) Despite consecutive road losses, OKC is tied with the Spurs and Pacers for the most wins in the NBA this season at 46 heading into its Tuesday night game against Houston.
4) Kevin Durant has posted 25 or more points in 28 consecutive games, one game shy of his career-best stretch (29 games from 12/22/2009 – 02/23/2010). He averaged 35.9 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting in January with Russell Westbrook out, and became the third player in the last 30 years to score 30+ points in 12 consecutive games, joining Kobe Bryant (16 straight games in Jan. and Feb. of 2003) and Tracy McGrady (14 straight in March/April of 2003). Bryant’s longest streak of at least 25 points was 19 (once in 2005-06, once in 2006-07).
Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunder5) If Durant maintains his 31.7 point per game average, it’d be the NBA’s highest mark since Bryant averaged 35.4 during the 2005-06 season. He’s also on pace to become the seventh player in NBA history to average at least 31 points, seven boards and five assists: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain (twice), Oscar Robertson (twice), Jerry West, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Durant also became the sixth player ever to reach the 40-50-90 club, of which Steve Nash is the president (four times), and Dirk Nowitzki is the only other player to reach it in the last 20 years.
6) OKC has limited its opponents to the fourth worst FG percentage in the NBA at 43.5 percent. The Thunder is currently 14-2 this season when holding the opposition to below 40 percent shooting.
7) Russell Westbrook has missed 30 of OKC’s 63 games this season due to three separate surgeries of his lateral meniscus, and is averaging 21.2 points, 7.1 assists and 5.8 boards with 1.9 steals. He’s shooting right at his career average of 43.2 percent, though his 33.8 percent from three is a career high (career 30.7 percent from three).
8) How improved is Serge Ibaka this season? He’s averaging career-highs with 15.2 points per game, 8.8 boards per game, 37.2 percent from three and 78.1 percent from the foul line and 32.7 minutes per game. He ranks second in the NBA (behind Anthony Davis) in blocks per game at 2.6.
9) Reggie Jackson’s proven himself a capable NBA scorer, averaging 13.3 points on 43.6 percent field goals, plus 4.0 assists and 3.7 boards with 1.1 steals per night. He started the 30 games Westbrook missed before moving back to his sixth man role. He matched a career high of 27 points in one of those starts (vs. SAS).
10) Derek Fisher’s been very good for the Thunder this season, hitting 40.4 percent of his three-pointers and playing his typically tough perimeter defense fighting through screens and making the proper rotations. Here’s what Durant had to say about Fish:

Q: On the time Derek Fisher has been with the team and what he’s gained from being around him and if there’s any extra appreciation from playing with him:
Durant: His toughness. He doesn’t take (stuff) from anybody, no matter who he’s guarding, no matter who’s in front of him, and it rubs off on everybody here. Of course people know about his veteran leadership, but it’s just his aura he brings to the team, just the aura of a winner. The guy has done so much in this league and he’s striving to do more. He could easily just hang them up and say: ‘I’ve won five championships, I’ve played with the best players ever to play this game.’ But he wants more. I love a player like that. I just love being around him. He’s a big brother to me and somebody I’ve enjoyed playing with him these past few years.

Q: On Fisher’s impact on the team with his shooting ability the last month:
Durant: He’s been knocking that thing down. He puts in so much work on his game. He makes big plays for us on offense and defense. When he’s not making shots, he impacts the game so much. But he knows one night he may get 10 or 11 shots, one night he may get two or three shots, but he’ll still be the same Fish with his intensity on defense, making winning basketball plays (that) a lot of people don’t see in the stat sheet or just from watching the game or people that don’t know the game can see the impact he has on our team, and I’m very grateful to have him.