The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't exactly piling up victories down the stretch, but coach Billy Donovan believes the tight contests will help his club prepare for the postseason.
However, they haven't had many close calls against the Los Angeles Lakers of late.
As Oklahoma City celebrates the final road game of Kobe Bryant's career, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have a chance to pass a couple of Lakers' legends in the record books Monday night when the Thunder chase their 11th straight home victory in this series.
Bryant turned back the clock in his final game at Houston on Sunday when he finished with 35 points - his fifth 30-point effort of 2015-16 - in a 130-111 defeat. The retiring future Hall of Famer has scored 19 in each of his two meetings with the Thunder this season.
Los Angeles will host Utah in the last game of the 18-time All-Star's career on Wednesday.
''It's a beautiful thing,'' he said of the outpouring of support. "I found enjoyment in it and in being able to say thank you to everybody and vice versa. Rarely as an athlete do you get an opportunity to do that. Normally your career comes and it goes. I'm very appreciative.''
Bryant has had some memorable performances at Oklahoma City. He had 32 points in a 95-94 win that eliminated the Thunder in Game 6 of the 2010 first-round series and 42 in a 106-90 loss that pushed the Lakers aside in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals.
Durant, who said he idolized and studied Bryant growing up, finished with 31 points in Saturday's 114-112 loss in the final game at Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena. Rudy Gay hit two free throws with one second left in Oklahoma City's fourth loss in the past six games.
Durant has had 63 straight games with at least 20 points, tying Bryant for the longest streak since 2005-06. He's one away from the best run since Michael Jordan's 69 in 1990-91.
Westbrook added a double-double with 24 points and 10 assists Saturday but also committed eight of Oklahoma City's 21 turnovers. He's still one triple-double away from breaking Magic Johnson's mark of 17 for the most in a season since '85-86.
With the Northwest Division title and West's No. 3 seed secured, Donovan says it's a positive that his club has had five of its last six games decided by eight points or less.
"We have a group of guys who are really competitive and really want to win," the first-year coach told the team's official website. "Emotionally, being able to control and stay focused and locked in on the things you have control over becomes really important."
"We need this right now this time of year, those hard fought battles and struggles."
The Thunder (54-26) haven't had many nail biters against the Lakers, winning by an average of 18.9 points during their streak at home - which includes playoffs - and 18 per game during a seven-game run overall.
They've scored 118.3 per game on 53 percent shooting while owning a plus-20.3 rebounding margin in the three meetings this season. Los Angeles (16-64) has given up an average of 118.4 points on 52 percent shooting in the last 10 of a 12-game road losing streak.
Westbrook led the way with 36 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a rare close call, 117-113 at Staples Center on Jan. 8.