The Oklahoma City Thunder wants to make a bold statement: they are a new force to be reckon with in the West. At 39-12 for the season, the Thunder have proved to be a solid squad overall, and with a young and talented core, they might have exactly what it takes to survive this demanding tight-scheduled season and move on to the playoffs with a healthy and eager squad. And it’s hard to find a better way to make such a statement than to defeat the LA Lakers on their two matches of the season, at home and on the road. But on this last one, the Thunder made it clear that this time around it was just basketball. The Lakers would have no drama storyline to keep a poor performance company. Head coach Mike Brown didn’t opt to put Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum in the bench during the fourth quarter. This time, the Lakers lost simply because they were outplayed by the Thunder.
Both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant had a slow start last night, but that certainly didn’t make much of a difference. All the most productive duo in the NBA had to do was to find it’s rhythm and with a brilliant performance in the third quarter, the Thunder opened a good gap and simply destroyed any chance the Lakers had of making this a game. Westbrook scored 36 points, Durant added 21 and the Oklahoma City Thunder showed once again that they are the strongest squad on the West crushing the Lakers 102-93 at the Staples Center.
Westbrook started the game with 2-of-6 shooting in the opening quarter, but soon enough got his engine going. Durant, on the other hand, started with 1-of-9, and in his own words, his performance was the worst he’d had since he began to play in the NBA. Perhaps that’s the reason why the Thunder shot 46 percent, and ended the streak of hitting over 50% in the last four consecutive games. But it was their aggressiveness under the rim that proved to be decisive on the long run. The Thunder outscored the Lakers on second-chance points 25-8 and to really prove they were giving it all they’ve got, the Thunder grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, and had 25 fastbreak points against the 8 that the aging Lakers put up.
But the Lakers had nothing ready for Westbrook and his third quarter effort which delivered 17 points, while keeping the Thunder in a 34-19 effort that gave them 78-68 lead going into the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant completed another double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Westbrook finished off the night with 36 points and 6 assists. Even Kobe Bryant had some words of praise about the Thunder’s point guard performance. “Russell Westbrook established the tempo in the third quarter, and he changed the pace of the game for them,” Bryant said. “He’s one of my favorites. He’s developed his outside shot a great deal, and he went to the post a little bit as well, so he’s a problem.”
Andrew Bynum had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Kobe Bryant chipped in with 23 points on 7-of-25 shooting for the Lakers. But it really wasn’t enough to keep the Lakers from losing their last two games at home and closing at 0-2 against the Thunder this season.