Banged-up Los Angeles Lakers host Oklahoma City Thunder

By Dan Arritt, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 3, 2018 at 10:35 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers open their longest homestand of the season on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the next five games at Staples Center could be key in turning their season around.

The Lakers (11-25) have lost seven straight and 10 of 11, most recently committing 24 turnovers in a 114-96 loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

The franchise record for consecutive losses is 10, and the Lakers will face a tough test against Oklahoma City, but then host the Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings -- all of whom are at least nine games under .500.

"We continue to hold guys accountable for the way that we play, for the way that is acceptable for us to play," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "We trust that our players are made up of the character that they're going to keep working extremely hard, because they don't like losing and they want to get better. As long as we do that, we'll be just fine at the end of it all."

Los Angeles is hoping to have rookie point guard Lonzo Ball back during the homestand. He has missed the past five games with a sprained left shoulder, and he and fellow starters Brook Lopez (sprained ankle) and Kyle Kuzma (quad contusion) are listed as questionable against Oklahoma City.

Ball's play was heavily critiqued during the first two months of the season, but his value to the team has been much more noticeable in his absence.

"Any time you have your starting point guard it always helps," Lakers veteran Corey Brewer said. "Lonzo's big for us, so hopefully he gets back out there and we can get this thing turned around."

The Thunder have lost two in a row by a combined five points following a six-game winning streak.

"We've played 18 games in 31 days and had very little practice time," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "I think there's been a lot of slippage. The only way you can correct it and deal with it is you try to show it on film and point it out. We need to get back to our identity as an elite defensive team."

Russell Westbrook is coming off his 12th triple-double of the season, totaling 38 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 116-113 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

The Thunder (20-17) played without starting guard and defensive specialist Andre Roberson, and he'll also miss the next three games with patellar tendonitis. Josh Huestis made his first career start in Roberson's place against Dallas and he'll likely maintain that role.

Donovan said Roberson's defense will be missed.

"He's as good as anybody I've ever been around and ever seen," Donovan said. "There are a lot of great defenders in this league. I think he's certainly right up there with the best of them, if not the best."

Paul George (20.6 points per game), Oklahoma City's second-leading scorer, sat out Friday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks with left knee soreness, but returned Sunday and said his knee felt fine afterward.a

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