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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC players know Lakers are playing desperately

Los Angeles has lost 11 of its past 15 games, none worse than the 15-point thumping the Thunder put on the Lakers two weeks ago. But the Thunder isn't entering this game thinking about the last meeting, or banking on the Lakers' struggles automatically translating into another victory.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 26, 2013

D'Antoni went 3-4 in his first seven games, putting the Lakers at 8-9 following its first game in December. That's when Pau Gasol, the team's fourth perceived future Hall of Famer, had tendinitis in both his knees flare up. He missed eight straight games, including a six-point loss in Oklahoma City.

The Lakers went 3-5 during that stretch without Gasol and fell three games below .500. Gasol returned on Dec. 18, and the Lakers won against Charlotte. Nash's 24-game absence ended the next game, on Dec. 22, and the Lakers got an overtime win at Golden State.

L.A. beat the Knicks at home, lost at Denver and defeated Portland at home. That brought the Lakers back to .500, winners of six of seven and showing a pulse.

Then came the New Year … and more losing.

The Lakers lost six straight to start 2013, and even when L.A.'s roster was the healthiest it had been all season D'Antoni didn't seem to know how to put his players in a position to succeed. Suddenly, L.A. was a season-high six games under .500.

But after consecutive wins over Milwaukee and Cleveland — a pair of teams that were a combined 28-48 at the time — the Lakers declared they were restarting their season.

They lost three straight.

Reboot No. 2. Season three in the 2012-13 season.

“I think this will be the start of a new season tonight,” Howard told reporters on Wednesday, after an air-it-all-out team meeting and before the Lakers faced the Grizzlies later that night.

Final score: Grizzlies 106, Lakers 93.

The Lakers dropped to 17-25, a season-high eight games below .500.

“We've got an All-Star team,” D'Antoni said after the Memphis mow down. “Have you ever watched an All-Star Game? It's God-awful because everybody gets the ball, they go one-on-one and then they play no defense. That's our team.”

A 102-84 win over Utah on Friday brings us up to date, to how the Lakers will walk into Sunday's showdown seven games under .500, four and a half games out of the final playoff spot.

And desperate.

“It don't change nothing for us,” said Russell Westbrook with a tinge of indifference. “We just got to play our brand of basketball. If we play our brand of basketball, it ain't too many teams that can beat us.”

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