GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Oklahoma City Thunder 36 30 22 32 120
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 31 33 26 16 106


Lakers lose 5th straight, 120-106 to Thunder

By BETH HARRIS

LOS ANGELES (AP) In the what-have-you-done-lately world of the NBA, the answer for the Los Angeles Lakers is nothing.

They trailed most of the game before rallying briefly in the fourth quarter only to lose their fifth in a row, 120-106 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

"The measure of success is what you've just recently accomplished," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Right now, we're back in the middle of the pack."

And if they're not careful in their final two games, the two-time defending champions could freefall all the way to the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers haven't lost this many in a row since 2006-07, when they dropped seven straight in the last season before Gasol joined the team.

"I'm surprised," Jackson said about the Lakers' rapid decline. "We were complacent a little bit. I told them yesterday at practice I didn't think we'd be able to turn it around in one game."

"Maybe it puts us in the situation where we have to, and we haven't been in that in a long time," Lamar Odom said.

Indeed, the Lakers won 17 of their first 18 games after the All-Star break, making their current skid all the more notable.

"I think we started to look ahead and look above instead of staying in the present," Derek Fisher said. "This one is tough for us because we were playing so well. This is coming at a bad time for us."

The Thunder won their fourth in a row and their first against the Lakers on the road since March 12, 2006.

Kevin Durant scored 31 points, and Russell Westbrook added 26, James Harden 16 and Serge Ibaka 15 for the Thunder, who moved a game behind the Lakers and Dallas with two remaining in the race for the No. 2 seed.

"This was a step in the right direction, but we want to get to something bigger, but it was kind of a statement win for us," Durant said.

Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, Pau Gasol added 26 and Andrew Bynum had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who led by five early in the fourth and by one with 3:10 to go, only to see the Thunder close on a 16-2 run.

"We're just playing horrible defense right now. We're just making too many mistakes," Bryant said. "The mistakes that we're making are correctable and a good practice session will correct that."

The Lakers did play better than in their previous four losses by cutting down turnovers. They had just two through the first three quarters, and nine in the fourth.

"The fourth-quarter defense was the best as we could possibly play against one of the best teams in basketball," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "Anytime you can beat the Lakers, it's a good win. They're one of the best teams and they haven't won a lot of games lately, but they're going to be right there."

The teams exchanged leads throughout the fourth, with Bryant scoring seven in a row to give the Lakers their last lead. Durant and Westbrook combined for nine of the Thunder's final 16 points.

In the first half, the Lakers gave up 66 points - their most in a half this season. After the game, Bryant took refuge in the trainer's room and when he returned to his locker, he was noticeably quiet.

"I didn't want to redecorate the walls in here so I made the effort to just go into the training room and keep to myself," he said.

Bryant's free throw after Thabo Sefolosha was called for a technical pulled the Lakers into their first tie, and Fisher's jumper gave them their first lead of the game, 76-74, midway through the third.

The Thunder answered with eight straight points before the Lakers outscored them 13-6 to take a 90-88 lead into the final 12 minutes.

The Thunder led the entire first half, with their largest lead of 12 coming in the opening quarter. They shot 62 percent from the floor, made 6 of 9 3-point attempts and 14 of 15 free throws.

The Lakers came out lethargic. There were four technicals in the first half, including Bryant and Kendrick Perkins, whose arms got tangled with Bryant's head ending up in Perkins' right armpit.

Bryant got disengaged from Perkins and scored seven of the Lakers' next nine points as part of a 20-11 run that energized them as they ended the half trailing 66-64.

Notes: The Thunder improved to 13-4 on the first night of back-to-back games. They'll complete their final one of the regular season on Monday at Sacramento. ... The Lakers have dropped three in a row at home. ... Bill Walton was a pregame visitor to the Lakers' locker room looking for his son, Luke.


Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited




0 Games ahead of Dallas in the Western standings, the Lakers drawing even with the Mavs, who won earlier against Phoenix. The Lakers do have the tiebreaker, however, and controlled their own destiny with two games left and the No. 2 seed still theirs to lose.

1 Lakers turnover in the first three quarters.

9 Lakers turnovers in the fourth quarter, certainly a deciding factor in the game.

31 Points for Kobe Bryant, his first time above 30 in April. He made 10-of-19 FG's and 9-of-10 FT's, but struggled in the final three minutes.

35 Free throw attempts for the Thunder, including six in the final minute with the game already over (all three fouls on Ron Artest). OKC made 32, for a 91.4% success rate.

55.6 OKC's shooting percentage in the game, paced by Kevin Durant's 11-of-15 for 31 points to match Bryant.

66 First half points for the Thunder, the most L.A. has conceded all season.




View More Photos


Points Bryant 31, 10-19 FG
Rebounds Bynum 13, 2 OFF 11 DEF
Assists Bryant, Fisher 4
Steals Artest, Bryant, Fisher 3
Blocks Bynum , Odom 2


POSTGAME QUOTES


Lakers coach Phil Jackson on tonight's game:
"We made some mistakes down the stretch and they capitalized on them. Too many fouls in the first part of the game. But we played better, we played a lot better tonight."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on the team's defense tonight:
"Not very good defense. Transition wise I thought we were a little bit better. I thought we fouled people in situations that put us in jeopardy—three-point shooting, maybe three technical fouls, three second violations on the defensive end. Sets up a really bad precedent, I thought."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on being able to come back from the five game losing streak:
"I told them yesterday I didn't think we would be able to turn it around in one game, at yesterday's practice. We got partially back into what we're trying to do. A number of things went wrong for us, we didn't survive. Those two free throws, and that situation; looked like a good block by Drew, disappointing aspect of the game. There were a couple sequences that we did offensively that were incorrectly done, and some of those things were disappointing."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on the impact their recent performance will have on their performance in the Playoffs:
"I don't know. I mean, it's just what you're doing now. A measure of success is what you've just recently accomplished, it's not what's been accomplished in the past or what we did post All-Star break. So, for right now we're back into the middle of the pack playing basketball."







Lakers' Derek Fisher on what the team has to do to stop the losing streak:
"It's important to make sure we're keeping everything in perspective and we're not carrying the burden of what has happened prior to tonight's game or Tuesday's game. Also, not looking ahead to what could happen if we win or lose this game or that game and I think that's kind of what happened to us…I think we started to actually look ahead and look above as opposed to just kind of staying in the present. We lost that step and it's tough to get it back when you're playing against professionals. We'll go back to work tomorrow and get ready to try and win a game on Tuesday night."

Lakers' Derek Fisher on what he can draw from tonight's game:
"I just think it's important for us to recognize…what we go through at any point in an 82 game season is part of an 82 game season. We're going to have some great stretches…some bad stretches and I think this one is tough for us because we were playing so well. This is coming at just a really bad time for us in terms of how we want to finish the regular season. We still have an opportunity to solidify our spot by just taking one spot on Tuesday night and getting a win and putting ourselves in position to take care of our business on Wednesday. This is still a part of what you go through as a team, particular for our team in terms of what we're trying to accomplish. We can't get caught up in the way the package is supposed to look. At the end of the day we just want to have the gift that we want and that's to be champions."






Lakers' Lamar Odom on what's going on with the Lakers' defense:
"Too much penetration, pick and roll….take these guards out of the game or the ball handling, whether they're playing small forward, shooting guard, or point guard or whatever they're playing take it from them; find out how to stop it."

Lakers' Lamar Odom on if the Lakers team still has confidence:
"Yes, in order to win a championship you have to come through us, any team. We'll fix it and find a way."







Lakers'Andrew Bynum on why the Lakers have been losing as of late:
"I think it's just the effort, from the start of the game. But this game, they came out and got off to a nice run, then we responded and came back. Then once we got it under control again, we started turning the ball over and started doing the things that got us into [a hole] to begin with."

Lakers' on Andrew Bynum on how the Lakers can fix their recent struggles:
"Good practice. The only way to fix this, I believe, is practice. We need to get out there and just practice together."

Lakers' Andrew Bynum on the Lakers confidence:
"It's high. We know we can win, we just need practice. We're not a unit right now."
Lakers' Pau Gasol on why the Lakers have been losing as of late:
"Every game has been a different story. Obviously, tonight I liked our effort a lot more. The four games prior to this one, [the other teams] just played pretty well. We're at a point where we have to bounce back. We must win these next two. There is no room for error."








Lakers' Pau Gasol on how the Lakers can fix their recent struggles:
"Just by doing the things that we were doing tonight, hustling, playing for each other and with each other, and just playing hard."

Lakers' Pau Gasol on if the Lakers gave 48 minutes of effort:
"I think tonight there was 48 minutes of effort. In Portland, it was maybe not 48, but it was 30 something. But I think we're at a point where every game will be a playoff game. That's how important these next two games are. They're must wins if we want to keep that second seed."









Lakers' Kobe Bryant on how Kendrick Perkins improves the Thunder:
"He's a great team defender. I've always said he's the best low-post defensive player in the league. It makes them better obviously."

Lakers' Kobe Bryant on how his team can snap this losing streak:
"Just correct the mistakes that we're making. The mistakes that we're making are correctible, and [through] a good practice session."

Lakers' Kobe Bryant on the Thunder creating turnovers:
"It was good defense."

Lakers' Kobe Bryant on facing the Spurs next:
"Big. It's the next game. We've got to focus on it, and come out and do our jobs, which we haven't been doing. We've got to do our jobs."





Thunder coach Scott Brooks on tonight's win:
"We wanted to come into the game and play good basketball on both ends of the floor. Offensively we were really clicking in the first half. I thought we played fourth quarter defense as best as we could possibly play against one of the best teams in basketball…it was a good win."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on how his team matches up against the Lakers right now:
"We play each other very tough. The two games that we lost could have gone either way. I thought we played good tonight. It's a very tough matchup regardless. They're big inside, they've got terrific play off the bench, and Kobe, he's a game-winner, one of the best players ever. I thought we matched up well tonight. We played them as hard as we can. We made some shots at the end, we did make some good plays, and got our hands on a lot of basketballs in that third and fourth quarter."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on his team's defense forcing turnovers:
"That's one thing we talked about at halftime. We only had two blocks and zero steals, and we're one of the league leaders in both of those categories. We wanted to put our hands on the basketball as much as we can, and come down in the paint and protect the rim. I thought Serge [Ibaka] set the pace in that third quarter, and all of our perimeter guys did a good job of playing and using our length."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on his team's shooting percentage:
"It's not easy to do against this team. They're a big team, they protect the paint, they've got good defenders. We were making shots tonight. We made some tough ones which helps. We did a really good job of attacking and moving the basketball all night."






Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook on tonight's victory:
"It's a good win, another game for us, and a big time road victory."

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook on the difference between this season and last:
"Yeah we had a chance to win it. We lost, on many occasions it ended up on last shots but tonight we got the stop we needed. We've definitely gotten older and gotten better as a team and it definitely shows."





Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on the meaning of tonight's victory:
"It means a lot for us, gives us a lot of confidence coming in and beating a great team like this. We've just got to keep pushing. We have two more games left and we're trying to get better every time we step out on the floor."

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on if the Thunder have arrived:
"I'm a humble guy so we could be a lot better. We can be a lot better. We want to be in championship form and I don't think we're there yet. We've got a long ways to go. We've just got to keep working and I think we'll be there if we keep working."

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on the strength of this Thunder team:
"Defense, defense got us the basketball. We made big plays, guys hit big shots. Thabo hit a big shot, I hit one shot, so defense gets us the ball back and that's what we wanted to do. We got some turnovers, we protected the rim, made them shoot jump shots, and that was the game for us."






Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kendrick Perkins on his role for the Thunder:
"When I first got here Coach Brooks and Sam Presti told me just to be myself. They wanted me to be the same person I was in Boston not changing my role any so I'm just trying to go out there and be communicating. One thing about me, I know who I am, I understand who I am as a player so I know my role and I don't ever try and go outside my body, so I know my job is getting guys open, finishing around the basket, passing the ball when guys are open, rebounding, playing defense, talking, just being a leader out there on the court, bring a physical play so I know who I am as a person so I don't think it was hard for me to fit my role in to this team."

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kendrick Perkins on being booed at STAPLES Center:
"I feel like if you get booed, you must have did something right in this gym. You know, I kind of like it. It's part of the game, it's all fun but at the end of the day you never get mad about it, it kind of motivates you more so it ain't my first time and it probably won't be my last."












LAKERS VS. THUNDER GAME PREVIEW

By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior Writer

Just last week the Los Angeles Lakers were in good position to get the Western Conference's top seed.

Now there's no guarantee the two-time defending champs will finish in the top three.

The slumping Lakers look to avoid losing five straight games for the first time in four years Sunday night when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of two teams with faint hopes of surpassing Los Angeles in the standings.

The Lakers (55-24) pulled within 1 1/2 games of West-leading San Antonio on April 1, but haven't won since, allowing the Spurs to clinch the conference's top seed.

Los Angeles is now one game ahead of third-place Dallas and two ahead of fourth-place Oklahoma City with three to play. The Lakers own the tiebreaker over both the Mavericks and Thunder, and can clinch the second seed Sunday with a win, coupled with a Dallas home loss to reeling Phoenix.

If Los Angeles doesn't break out of its funk, however, it could fall to fourth.

The Lakers, who host San Antonio on Tuesday before concluding the regular season Wednesday against Sacramento, are struggling mightily offensively, averaging 87.0 points during their four-game skid.

In Friday's 93-86 loss to Portland, Los Angeles shot 39.5 percent and turned the ball over 17 times. The Lakers are averaging 18.3 turnovers in the last four games - 5.1 more than their season average.

"It's a product of not paying attention, not being focused and not playing the game with the right attitude," coach Phil Jackson said. "As a result, we end up with some losses."

Jackson has limited his starters' minutes down the stretch, but even when they've been on the court they haven't gotten the job done. The Lakers were outscored by 25 points during Kobe Bryant's 32 minutes Friday, Bryant's worst plus-minus rating of the season.

"These guys just don't want to play hard right now," Jackson said. "I hate to have this setup going into the playoffs when we're just not playing hard."

Los Angeles, which hasn't endured a five-game skid since a dropping seven in a row from March 2-15, 2007, could have trouble getting its offense on track against Oklahoma City.

After clinching the Northwest Division title Wednesday, the Thunder (53-26) beat Denver 104-89 on Friday, their straight victory and 14th in 17 games. They held the Nuggets well below their league-leading average of 106.9 points and forced 19 turnovers.

"Holding a great team like this to 40 percent shooting is good for us,"Kevin Durant told the Thunder's official website. "It gives us a lot of confidence. It's something we can build on."

Beating the Lakers for the first time this season would certainly raise their confidence level even more.

The Thunder have played Los Angeles tough in the first two meetings, trailing by four points or fewer in the final minute each time. In the last game on Feb. 27, Oklahoma City's James Harden missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a 90-87 loss.

Durant, who is averaging 29.7 points during the Thunder's winning streak, has struggled in both games against the Lakers, averaging 22.5 points on 36.4 percent shooting. Oklahoma City is 9-11 this season when Durant, who leads the league in scoring at 27.8 ppg, scores 23 or fewer.

Bryant also hasn't been very productive in the season series with the Thunder, averaging 19.0 points, his fewest against any West opponent.



Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited



Lakers Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle) will play.
Devin Ebanks (stress fracture, left tibia) is out.
Pau Gasol (bone bruise, right knee) is day-to-day.
Theo Ratliff (left knee surgery) is questionable.

None


01/17 - OKC @ LAL W 101-94
02/27 - LAL @ OKC W 90-87
04/10 - OKC @ LA


Turnovers. It is usually not possible to sum up a game in one word but with the way we have been playing the last four games we can do that today. In those four losses we had 17, 17, 15, & 20 turnovers and that is simply too many. So step one is protecting the basketball. If we take better care of the ball then we can eliminate some of the easy points teams have been scoring which is crucial especially against a team like Oklahoma City. The Thunder want to get out and use their overall speed and athleticism to create scoring opportunities. They will look to push the ball and if we help their cause by turning it over (and by taking bad shots) then we will be in for another very long night.

Read Full Scouting Report @ Lakers Courtside Connection


GAME NOTES

SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers lead their season series with the Thunder 2-0 after taking last season's series from Oklahoma City 3-1. Including this season, the Lakers have now taken the last six consecutive season series from Oklahoma City, sweeping 2008-09 (3-0) and 2007-08 (4- 0) and taking 2006-07 (3-1) and 2005-06 (2-1). Meeting last year in the First Round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers advanced past the Thunder in six games (4-2) and improved to 6-2 in postseason series against the franchise. The two teams have met 220 times in the regular season but just nine times (8-1) since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City prior to the 08-09 season. The Lakers 75-91 loss 3/26/10 at Oklahoma City snapped their 12-game win streak over the Thunder and marked their first loss to the Thunder since the team's relocation from Seattle. The Lakers are 15-2 in their last 17 regular season games against Oklahoma City and have won 14 of their last 15 against the Thunder overall. On the road against the Thunder, the Lakers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 overall. The Lakers have now played seven times during the regular season at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, going 0-2 against the New Orleans Hornets while the team was temporarily relocated from 2005-07 and 4-1 against the Thunder. At home, the Lakers have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Thunder and are 15-8 all-time against Oklahoma City at STAPLES Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 28-12 against the Thunder. In 2006-07, Kobe Bryant established a Lakers series record with 46 points 4/6/07 at KeyArena only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points 4/15/07 at home against the then Sonics. In those games, he surpassed the old mark of 45 points Jerry West established in 1970 and Bryant himself matched in January of 2003. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook played collegiately at UCLA and in high school at Leuzinger (Lawndale, CA) while teammate and Los Angeles native James Harden played locally at Artesia High School. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks also played locally prior to his NBA career at UC-Irvine.

SEED CLINCHING SCENARIO
Entering their game vs. Oklahoma City on April 10th, the Lakers have an opportunity to clinch the Western Conference's #2 seed with a victory over the Thunder AND a Dallas loss at home to the Phoenix Suns. A Lakers victory would eliminate Oklahoma City from #2 seed contention while reducing the Lakers magic number for the #2 seed to one (a Lakers victory OR a Mavericks loss).

BUMP IN THE ROAD
Coming off an historic 17-1 record in their first 18 games after the All-Star break, the Lakers have now dropped four straight with their most recent loss April 8th at Portland. The skid marks the fourth 3+ game losing streak of the season for the Lakers, an exceptionally rare occurrence during Phil Jackson's tenure as Lakers head coach. Only one other year has a Jackson-led Lakers team had four 3+ game losing streaks in the same season (2006-07: one 7-game streak, 6-game streak, 4-game streak and 3- game streak). Jackson's teams in 2005-06 and 2002-3 each had three 3+ game losing streaks in the same season. The 2007-08 and 2003-04 Finals bound teams had two 3+ game losing streaks each while the NBA Championship teams of 2009-10 and 2001-02 each had one 3-game losing streak. The 2008-09, 2000-01 and 1999-00 NBA Championship teams never had a 3-game losing streak during their runs to the title.

STRONG POST ALL-STAR BREAK PUSH

With their victory at Utah on April 1, the Lakers became just the 4th team since the league introduced the All-Star game in 1951 to post a 17-1 record (or better) out of the break. The 1999-2000 Lakers won their first 16 straight games after the All-Star break, eventually moving to 27-1 before recording their second loss. The only other two teams to win 17 games before recording their second loss after the All-Star Break were the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls (19-1) and 1997-98 Utah Jazz (17-1).

BRYANT NAMED KIA NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE MONTH
On April 1st, Kobe Bryant was named Western Conference Player of the Month for March 2011. The award is Bryant's 13th Western Conf. Player of the Month honor and 14th Player of the Month award overall. Bryant was also named NBA Player of the Month for December of 2000, a year before the award was divided into Eastern and Western Conferences for the 2001-02 season. The award is the first of the season for Bryant, who has won multiple Player of the Month awards in a single season four times (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09). Bryant's previous Western Conference Player of the Month awards came in December 2009, January 2009, December 2008, April 2008, February 2008, March of 2007, December 2006, April 2006, January 2006, March 2004, January 2003 and November 2001.
Bryant averaged 25.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists while leading the Lakers to a league-best 12-1 record in March and bringing them to within 2 1⁄2 games of San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference. Bryant achieved several milestones in March: passing Moses Malone for 6th on the NBA's all-time scoring list during a 26- point performance in a win 3/8 at Atlanta as well as passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the Lakers all-time leader in games played in a win over New Orleans 3/27. Bryant also tallied a season-high 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a 3 OT win over Phoenix 3/22 en route to the Western Conference Player of the Week award on 3/27.

JACKSON NAMED WESTERN CONFERENCE COACH OF THE MONTH
On April 1st, Phil Jackson was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for March 2011. The award is Jackson's fifth Western Conference Coach of the Month honor. Jackson most recently won back-to-back Western Conference Coach of the Month awards for games played in October/November 2008 and April 2008. Jackson also won back-to-back awards for April 2003 and October/November 2003. In March, Jackson led the Lakers to a league-best 12-1 (.923) mark. Prior to these honors, Jackson was last named Coach of the Month in November of 2001 before the award was divided by Conference.






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