The Los Angeles Lakers will be without LeBron James for the 12th consecutive game when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Los Angeles stands 4-7 since James strained his left groin during a Christmas Day victory over the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers defeated the visiting Chicago Bulls 107-100 on Tuesday but forward Kyle Kuzma wonders if the club has missed out on some victories during James' absence. "Obviously, especially playing in the West, everything is so close," Kuzma told reporters. "So we're outside of the playoffs right now, but we could easily be fourth right now. So, you definitely look at it like that, but you got to just take it with a grain of salt and just bring it every single night." Oklahoma City is in a rut with four losses in its past five games and the Thunder were easily handled by the lowly Atlanta Hawks 142-126 on Tuesday. "These are the games that we have to be ready for, one of those games that we were supposed to roll and that didn't happen," standout forward Paul George told reporters after the uninspiring road loss. "When you play a team like the Hawks, you have to match their energy and we didn't do that."
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT LINE: Thunder -10.5
ABOUT THE LAKERS (24-21): Point guard Lonzo Ball played a solid all-around game with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists against the Bulls and he knocked down three 3-pointers in the third quarter. "He's got a knack for hitting big shots. He's not afraid to knock down a 3 when we needed it," Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters afterward. "What is great is seeing him more confident in getting to the rim. He can draw contact but still be able to finish." Consistency is often an issue with Ball as he is averaging 16 points over the past two games after averaging six over the previous two outings.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (26-17): Point guard Russell Westbrook recorded 31 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals against the Hawks and he didn't have to be told the reason for the stunning 16-point setback against one of the league's poorest squads. "We just didn't have the effort that we needed for 48 minutes," Westbrook told reporters. Westbrook has topped 20 points in six consecutive games and is averaging 26.2 points, 13 assists and 9.7 rebounds during the stretch.
1. George scored 37 as the Thunder posted a 107-100 road win over the Lakers on Jan. 2.
2. Oklahoma City C Steven Adams made all seven field-goal attempts against Atlanta and is 31-of-40 over the last five games.
3. Los Angeles F Kyle Kuzma had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Chicago for his third double-double of the season.
PREDICTION: Thunder 118, Lakers 106 Bet Now
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