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10 Things to Know: Lakers vs. Thunder (1/8/16)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
1) The Lakers are coming off one of their most exciting games of the year, as they nearly came back from 27 points down at Sacramento on Friday. Kobe Bryant dropped 28 points in just three quarters, while D’Angelo Russell caught up late to score a career-high 27 of his own.
2) Bryant became part of an exclusive club against the Kings, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone as the only players in league history to score 33,000 points. The 38-year-old reached the mark at the youngest age of the trio when he hit a turnaround bank shot in the second quarter.
3) Oklahoma City has been a nightmare for the Lakers lately. Los Angles has lost six straight to the Thunder, including two this season when the offense could hardly muster anything. The purple and gold managed just 78 points on Dec. 19 and 85 points on Dec. 23, which are the two lowest scoring efforts of any OKC opponent this year.
4) The NBA’s third-leading scorer (26.6 ppg), Kevin Durant is nearly a lock to pass a Lakers legend in the history books on Friday. The 27-year-old needs only 14 points to eclipse James Worthy (16,320) for 96th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, which he will surely continue climbing much higher.
5) For as spectacular as Durant — who is third in player efficiency rating — has been this year, the 2014 MVP has been overshadowed in all-star voting by the massive outpouring for Bryant in his 20th and final year. Bryant’s 1.26 million votes more than double those of Durant, who is closest to the Los Angeles legend among Western Conference frontcourt players.
6) UCLA Basketball held “Russell Westbrook Night” for Friday’s game at Pauley Pavilion, and it’s easy to see why. The former Bruin is sixth in the league in scoring (25.2), fourth in assists (9.4), third in triple-doubles (three) and leads the NBA in steals (2.5).
7) Few players provide as strong a defensive presence as Serge Ibaka, who is holding opponents to a league-low 33.9 percent shooting at the rim. He also has a penchant for highlight swats, as he ranks third in blocks (2.4).
8) Enes Kanter has been a useful option off the bench for Oklahoma City. The Stoneridge Prep (Simi Valley) alum is fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage (56.4) and third in scoring off put-backs (2.9).
9) The Thunder score the league’s second-most points per game (108.6), but their tenacity on the boards has also been crucial to their success. Oklahoma City hauls in 47.5 rebounds, which is an NBA-best 8.1 more than its opponents.
10) Billy Donovan is in his first year as an NBA head coach, but back in 2007 he was briefly hired to be Orlando’s before deciding to return to the University of Florida shortly after his introductory press conference with the Magic.
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