8:00 PM ET, December 13, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Without playing on Thursday, the team suffered another loss.
Steve Blake is out for at least six weeks with an elbow injury, meaning Bryant is expected to shift over to point guard for lengthy stretches starting with Friday night's visit with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bryant returned to the floor Sunday, but he's shown a little rust in his first two games back after eight months of rehab for his torn Achilles tendon. He missed nine of 11 shots in a 106-94 loss to Toronto in his debut, but looked better on Tuesday, going 6 of 11 from the field and finishing with a team-high 20 points in a 114-108 loss to Phoenix.
"It's a process," Bryant said. "You just continue to figure out what you can and can't do. Every game, you try to step up and do a little bit more and just go from there."
The Lakers (10-11) haven't lost three straight this season, but they face a tall task Friday against the Thunder (17-4), who are 10-0 at home.
Their long-term prognosis got a bit dicier on Thursday as well, as the team announced Blake would miss at least six weeks with a torn elbow ligament. With Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar already out, Bryant is expected to handle the starting point guard duties with Xavier Henry backing him up.
Blake's injury initially happened Nov. 26 in Washington, but he continued to play through it.
"I'm just really heartbroken for him," Bryant told the Lakers' official Twitter account. "He's put in a lot of hard work and played phenomenally."
While Los Angeles may be in for some adjustments offensively without its point guard, some defensive changes are in order as well. The Lakers have allowed an average of 106.6 points in their last seven games, and now face the high-scoring Thunder.
Oklahoma City has won 12 of 13 and has averaged 111.0 points during its latest winning streak, which stretched to four with Wednesday's 116-100 victory at Memphis. Russell Westbrook led the way with 27 points and nine assists while backcourt reserves Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson combined for 35 points.
Like Bryant, Westbrook got hurt in April. But the recovery from his lateral meniscus tear seems to be going well, as Westbrook has averaged 23.0 points and 9.3 assists in Oklahoma City's past three games.
"Russell is calming down, relaxing and just playing his game," Kevin Durant said. "He is getting confidence. We tell him when he does no one can stop him."
Westbrook's eyes seem to light up whenever he sees the Lakers. He's averaged 29.8 points in his last six games against Los Angeles, including the final two games of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals.
Westbrook had 37 points and 10 rebounds when the teams last met in Oklahoma City, a 122-105 Thunder win on March 5.
Oklahoma City is rarely lacking for offense with Durant and Westbrook out there, but lately it's started to crack down defensively. The Thunder's past 10 opponents have shot just 40.5 percent -- 30.7 from 3-point range.
"We put our mind set every time we set out on defense first and on the team first," Durant said. "That's what we have been doing. We have putting everything aside. We put our individual stats, shots, rebounds, and assists aside. We are grinding our system offensively and defensively.
"We have to just keep it up. We just have to have that mindset where we can't let anything distract us from what we want to do in the game."
Durant has scored at least 35 points in four of his last five regular-season meetings with the Lakers.
Last 5 Games
|Los Angeles||Oklahoma City|
|Dec 10 PHX Loss 114-108
Dec 08 TOR Loss 106-94
Dec 06 @SAC Win 106-100
Dec 01 POR Loss 114-108
Nov 29 @DET Win 106-102
|Dec 11 @MEM Win 116-100
Dec 10 @ATL Win 101-92
Dec 08 IND Win 118-94
Dec 06 @NO Win 109-95
Dec 04 @POR Loss 111-104
|Complete Schedule: Los Angeles | Oklahoma City|
Team Stat Leaders
Steve Blake has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is expected to be out a minimum of 6 weeks. Now all 3 Lakers point guards are sidelined because of injury ... Still no timetable for Steve Nash, who hasn't played in a game since November 10th because of nerve damage in his back. And Jordan Farmar has been out since December 1st after tearing his left hamstring.[+]
With Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all sidelined with injuries, Kobe Bryant started at point guard Friday against the Thunder. Bryant had 13 assists, five of which came from him passing at the top of the key. Bryant also found teammates in good spots. Ten of his 13 assists were layups or dunks around the rim and one other was a Pau Gasol jump shot in the paint.
Kevin Durant did not attempt a shot from 5-9 feet Friday. Durant is shooting 27 percent on such shots this season (10-of-37). He is shooting 50.3 percent from all other areas on the court.
The Thunder came into Friday's game averaging 105.1 points per 100 possessions, sixth in the NBA. The Thunder scored 118.3 points per 100 possessions against the Lakers, en route to a season-high 122 points. It is the Thunder's third-highest offensive efficiency rating this season.[+]
Thunder Top Offensive Performances - This Season
Kobe Bryant was 2-of-6 from the floor on Friday, with both of his made field goals coming on layups. His four missed shots came on jumpers 12 to 17 feet from the rim.
This was the 232nd time that Kevin Durant made at least 10 shots from the field in a regular season or playoff game. His 10 for 13 (76.9%) tied his 2nd-best shooting percentage from the field in any of those games. He's had only one game in his career in which he's made at least 10 shots AND shot better than his 10 for 13 on Friday, a 14 for 18 performance in a win over the Miami Heat on January 16, 2010.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 10-of-13 from the floor in Friday's win against the Lakers, and did not play in the fourth quarter. Durant scored from all over the floor, making all but one of his field goals inside 25 feet.[+]
Kevin Durant by FG Distance - Friday vs. Lakers
ESPN Stats & Information