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Thunder, Lakers get acquainted again

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are becoming well acquainted with each other of late.

The teams will get together for the second time in five days and fourth time in five weeks when Los Angeles hosts Oklahoma City Thursday at Staples Center.

The Lakers (22-31) beat the Thunder 108-104 in Oklahoma City on Sunday, the middle game in their current three-game winning streak. The Thunder beat the Lakers by 37 and 24 points last month.

Oklahoma City (31-24) ended a four-game losing streak with a 125-105 win at the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return to the bench. Anthony is listed questionable along with Russell Westbrook due to an ankle injury.

Oklahoma City had been starting rookie Terrance Ferguson at shooting guard since Andre Roberson went down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 27, but coach Billy Donovan started small forward Josh Huestis in place of Ferguson on Tuesday because of the length of Golden State's wings. That left Russell Westbrook as the only guard in the starting five.

Westbrook had 34 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against Golden State, and forward Paul George had 38 points and six steals. Both are L.A.-area natives.

"We're ready for these challenges. We're ready for the big games," George told reporters after the win at Golden State. "Looking back at it, where we're at in the standings, the record we're at right now. Go back to those games where we lost to teams we should have beat, we wouldn't be in this situation, but the highlight of everything is consistency."

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan was pleased with the defense against Golden State, especially the way the players communicated and helped each other out.

"That's what we're trying to do," Donovan said. "Can we sustain those really good habits, not only for 48 minutes, but from game, to game, to game."

The Lakers held the Suns to 36 second-half points in a 112-93 victory on Tuesday night and have won three straight since allowing over 120 in consecutive losses at Toronto and Orlando last week.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 points for the Lakers as he continued to handle point guard duties while Lonzo Ball sat out his 11th straight game with a knee injury.

"Just trying to play the game the right way," Ingram told reporters after the game. "I think being aggressive for myself and for my teammates gets a lot of guys open and we're just making the next pass available and getting the best shot we can."

Julius Randle had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Kyle Kuzma scored 16 off the bench as Los Angeles won its seventh straight game at home.

The Lakers are 11-4 since Jan. 7, making them the second hottest NBA team in the past month.

Lakers guard Josh Hart started his third straight game and has reached double figures in points and rebounds in all three, earning a new nickname.

"We call him Charles Barkley," Randle said. "He's great, especially from that guard position, then coming in and helping the bigs get boards. He's huge for us."

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