Lakers First Up on Thunder's Two-Game Trip West

The Thunder players and coaches are heading west one last time in the regular season for a Sunday-Monday back-to-back in Los Angeles and Sacramento. The two-time defending NBA Champion Lakers are up first.

The Lakers had won 17 of 18 games but now find themselves mired in a four-game losing streak. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks isn’t quite sure what to make of the slump.

“They had so much success with that one stretch where they won all those games and now, I don’t know, if they thought when they couldn’t get the number one spot they kind of had a little letdown or what. But still they’re a dangerous team. You know they’ve had some tough stretches the last two years but still ended up winning the whole thing.”

Despite this four-game hiccup, Brooks told reporters the Lakers are still the same dangerous, veteran team they've been.

"Their inside game is the best in the business, they score a lot of points in the paint, they have Kobe (Bryant), who can make game-winning shots," he said. "They have Derek Fisher, who's as tough as they come as a point guard and their bench is very good. We're going to have to play a very good game. A lot of energy, a lot of effort."

The Thunder hasn’t beaten the Lakers in Staples Center and is 0-3 against them this season overall. But this is a different Thunder team with the addition of Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed, which allowed Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison to play power forward.

“We’re much better inside now and we’re playing much better defense overall,” Brooks said.

There is also a different attitude on defense and that has primarily come from Perkins.

“It’s going to be nice having Perk there,” Brooks said, “because he brings a toughness, a mindset that we’re going to get a stop every time down court. And our guys are believing that we have to get stops every time down court. The Lakers will put a lot of pressure on you, they have so many skilled players at a lot of spots but Perk gives us that toughness and he’s going to give everything he has to stop their bigs from getting points around the basket.”

This will be the first time this season Perkins has gone up against the Lakers' Pau Gasol in a Thunder uniform. Perkins doesn’t like any of the players he goes up against but he has a particular disdain for Gasol. When reporters asked him a couple of days after his Oklahoma City arrival what it was he disliked about Gasol, Perkins had a simple, one-word answer.

“Everything.”

This one should be fun.

Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. Sunday inside Staples Center. You can watch all the action of Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.

NOTES:
  • The Thunder is 23-18 on the road this season. The 23 wins are more than the combined total for the previous two seasons.

  • Since March 9, the Thunder is 14-3 and the team has won three games in a row. The Lakers have lost four straight.

  • Monday’s game in Sacramento may be the last game the Thunder plays inside Arco Arena. The Kings are negotiating a move to Anaheim for next season.

  • The Thunder is 3-0 against the Kings this season and has won five in a row against them going back to last season.

  • The Thunder has swept six back-to-back sets this season. The Thunder is 12-4 on the first night and 9-7 on the second.