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Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: March 5, 11:57 AM ET
Lakers discuss Serge Ibaka's punch

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant saw Serge Ibaka's below-the-belt hit Sunday on Blake Griffin and thought that some retaliation was in order.

"I probably would have smacked [Ibaka] in the mouth," Bryant said after the Los Angeles Lakers practiced Monday. "I would have dealt with the pain after."

The Lakers head on the road to play Ibaka and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. The NBA has not stated whether Ibaka, who received a flagrant foul 1 for his punch of Griffin, will be suspended.

Ibaka was not ejected and stayed in the game Sunday as the Thunder held on to beat Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-104.

"It doesn't matter," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said when asked if he would plan for Ibaka to play. "They're deep. It won't change what we do, more or less. Obviously it would help us because he's a good player. But we won't change anything up."

How will Dwight Howard plan to face Ibaka?

"I mean, you got to wear a cup," Howard joked.

Whether Howard will need to shield himself from Ibaka or not, the Lakers will have to protect themselves from the Thunder's 17 fast-break points per game, the fifth-best mark in the league.

"Dictate the tempo of the game," Howard said. "I think if we slow the ball down and we play the way we want to play, we should win the game. They want to get out and run. That's not to our favor. We're not a run-and-gun team, so I think the best way to play those guys is to slow the ball down and make them play in a half-court offense."

The Thunder have won four of five games, averaging 114 points in the victories. The Lakers have won 13 of their last 18, but have averaged just 104 points in those wins.

The second of those 13 wins for the Lakers came at home against Oklahoma City on Jan. 27, when Los Angeles managed to control the pace and win, 105-96.

"I think we were kind of getting a groove a little bit before that game, and that game obviously was a big game for us to try to prove to ourselves that we can play with them and try to get out of this funk," Bryant said.

Playing Oklahoma City on the road is a different story. The Thunder are 26-4 at home this season and beat the Lakers, 114-108, at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Dec. 7. The Lakers have lost their last five games in Oklahoma City, including three in last season's playoffs.

"They probably have the best crowd in the league," Bryant said.

Oklahoma City also might have the best two-player combination in the league, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook forming the highest-scoring duo in the NBA at 52.0 combined points per game.

"We got to try to take away the easy ones as much as possible," Bryant said. "That's when scorers really have big nights, when they have dunks at the rim and they get layups and easy buckets. That's when they really have those 30-35 point nights."

Durant is averaging 37.7 points in three games against the Lakers this season while Westbrook is averaging 25.7.

With a win, the Lakers can push their record to a game above .500 for just the second time all season. The last time it happened was back on Nov. 20, when Los Angeles defeated Brooklyn to improve to 6-5.

"Every win is a win for us right now, and every loss is a big loss," Steve Nash said. "So, we got to just keep playing at a high clip."