It might be hard to find an NBA team that is playing worse than the Los Angeles Lakers.
Other than the Orlando Magic, who have lost 10 straight games, the Lakers have the longest losing streak in the league. L.A. has lost five consecutive contests, and is one of two teams that have yet to win in 2013.
Now, the Lakers will try to snap their skid against, maybe, the best team in basketball.
Los Angeles is set to host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. You can watch a free live stream online at espn3.com.
The Thunder are a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the best record in basketball at 27-8. They defeated the Lakers in their one meeting this season, 114-108.
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L.A. wasn’t at full strength in the Dec.7 matchup. Steve Nash was still out with a fracture in his leg, and Pau Gasol missed the contest with tendinitis in his knees. Chris Duhon was forced to play 36 minutes at point guard, and Antawn Jamison played 29 minutes as a starter.
On Friday, the Lakers will be undermanned, once again. Dwight Howard will miss the game with a shoulder injury. Paul Gasol also won’t play because of a concussion. L.A. has played its last two games without either player, losing by an average of eight points.
With the Lakers playing with a banged up frontcourt, Kobe Bryant may have to score more than usual. He registered 35 points in the loss to the Thunder. Bryant has struggled, however, without Gasol and Howard on the court. He’s averaging 23.5 points on 39 percent shooting in the last two games.
Bryant says it’s not hard to see why the Lakers haven’t won since 2012.
"We have lost five games in a row, it is pretty self-explanatory. 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."
Nobody in the league shoots more than Bryant, but Russell Westbrook is second to him in attempts. He scored 33 points on 26 shots in the first matchup between the two clubs. Nash is one of the worst defenders in the league, so Westbrook could have a similar performance.
Oklahoma City is a much better team at home, but they are expected to hand Los Angeles their sixth consecutive defeat. The Thunder are 5.5-point favorites at Staples Center.
Prediction: The Thunder have recently had an easy time with the Lakers, beating them in five games of last year’s playoffs and winning their one matchup this season. L.A. has had trouble with athletic teams, and Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Westbrook are three of the most athletic players in the league. OKC should be able to score at will, and could win this game easily.
Predicted Score: Oklahoma City 112, Los Angeles 98