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Streaking Lakers await Thunder for Monday's game

Thunder beat writer John Rohde writes that those who thought the Lakers were dead and gone because of a slow start should have known better.
By John Rohde Modified: January 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm •  Published: January 15, 2011

Those who thought the Los Angeles Lakers were dead earlier this season should have known better.

Three seasons ago, the Lakers lost five of seven in late January and still advanced to the NBA Finals.

Last season, they lost seven of their last 10 regular-season games, and still repeated as world champions.

This season, despite losing four straight losses in late November and three straight in late December, the Lakers still have the second-best record in the Western Conference and are now riding a seven-game winning streak.

Take away their two losing streaks this season and the Lakers are 30-4.

So it will be the streaking Lakers, not the struggling Lakers, who await the Thunder (27-13) on Martin Luther King Day inside Staples Center.

Contrary to what fools believed just three weeks ago, the two-time defending world champions are not dead and gone.

“They're far from being done,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They are still the best team in basketball until somebody knocks them off.”

When they last met, the Thunder was building its honor and Lakers were defending theirs.

A tap-in follow from Pau Gasol with 0.5 seconds left in Game 6 gave the Lakers a 95-94 victory in OKC and ended the Thunder's magical campaign that brought 27 more wins than the previous season.

The Thunder's top nine players remain the same from last season. The Lakers' top seven players remain the same, but the team got better.

Gone are guards Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic and the Lakers acquired far superior reserves in Matt Barnes (out seven more weeks after right knee surgery) and Steve Blake.

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