The Lakers haven’t beaten very many good teams this season so far, and were only 5-5 against teams with winning records coming in to Monday’s game. So a win over a solid Oklahoma City team was important. It also started a tough stretch for the Lakers, as they also play Dallas, Denver, and Utah in the next week.
Kobe Bryant scored 21 points, including seven in the third quarter when the Lakers seemingly took control of the game. He hit 7-12 from the floor, to go along with seven assists and five rebounds, but shot just 6-11 from the foul line, and uncharacteristically missed two with the game still relatively close with 30 seconds left. The misses didn’t cost the team however.
Oklahoma City, riding a 4-game winning streak, played the first half tight with the world champs. The Lakers were able to make a small run to close out the half and take a 58-55 lead into the locker room. In the second half, Bryant came out firing and by the middle of the quarter, the Lakers had pushed the lead to 76-61, on the strength of a 14-0 run.
But the Thunder would not go away. Russell Westbrook was relentless attacking the basket, Kevin Durant started to make tough shots, and the interior defense started to stiffen as the Thunder got themselves back into the game. After the teams exchanged blows most of the fourth, Pau Gasol hit two baskets late in the quarter to put the Lakers up 98-88, and they were able to hold on down the stretch despite some shaky foul shooting.
Gasol had 21 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots, rebounding from his sub-par effort against the Clippers. Lamar Odom had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Derek Fisher had a season-high 15 points.
Andrew Bynum had 10 points and 10 rebounds, but found himself in foul trouble again, as Laker guards had a tough time containing Westbrook and his drives to the basket, forcing Bynum to commit several fouls to stop layups.
For the game, the Lakers shot 50.0% (38-76) from the field, and 7-14 from the three-point line, where they have certainly struggled in recent weeks. The Thunder shot just 42.5% (37-87) from the field, and an absolutely abysmal 2-22 (9.1%) from the three-point line, where they have struggled from all year. The Lakers won the rebound battle barely 41-40.
Westbrook had a solid game with 32 points and 12 assists, on 12-23 shooting from the floor. Kevin Durant had 24 points, but was hounded by Ron Artest all night long, and shot just 8-24 from the field, including 1-8 from beyond the arc. The only other Thunder player in double-figures was Serge Ibaka who scored 11 points.
The win was the Lakers 11th straight at Staples Center over the Thunder, and they’ve now won 10 of their last 12 overall.
Los Angeles’ next game is Wednesday night against the slumping Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. The Mavs have lost six straight, and have dropped all the way to fifth in the Western Conference standings. They have been reeling since injuries to Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitski, but do have the big German back in the lineup now after he missed nine games with a knee strain. Butler is lost for the season.