Lakers hold off Thunder for 5th straight winDec 23, 2009 - 7:37 AM By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES(AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers' misguided passes, ill-advised shots and indifferent defense were all symptoms of the malaise that often hits a team returning home from a long road trip.
As usual with any malady befalling the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had the cure - even with a sore knee.
Bryant scored 40 points for the sixth time this season, and the NBA-leading Lakers shook off a rough first half before hanging on for their 16th victory in 17 games, 111-108 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.
Bryant persevered through a scary stumble, an elbow to the jaw and a night of tough defense from Kevin Durant and the Thunder, who came agonizingly close to a breakthrough win against the defending champions.
Pau Gasol had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the road-weary Lakers, who needed two last-minute free throws apiece from Bryant and Derek Fisher to win in their return from a five-game road trip.
"The first home game back is always tough when you're trying to find that groove," Bryant said. "We trust our defense, and we understand what we're capable of doing. It was really just a matter of finding that rhythm."
The Lakers really only found it in a 34-21 third quarter - the sole period in which they outscored the Thunder, who dropped back below .500 with their fifth loss in six games. After trailing by 12 in the first half, Los Angeles blew most of an 11-point lead in the fourth.
Baskets by Russell Westbrook and James Harden twice cut the Lakers' lead to one in the final 25 seconds, but Bryant and Fisher sealed Los Angeles' 12th straight win over Oklahoma City.
"They were sharper than we were, and we just had to work really hard," Gasol said. "You come in tired from the road, and the time difference has a little impact. I'm not sure why, but it does happen. Luckily, we were able to get past it."
Playing at home for the first time since breaking his right index finger in a game against Minnesota, Bryant had another injury scare when he landed awkwardly on his left knee while putting up a backward layup with 5:08 to play. He stayed down on the court for several moments, but shot his own free throws after a timeout - only to take an elbow to the jaw from Westbrook with 3:55 left.
Bryant persevered, drawing Durant's sixth foul before hitting two free throws with 19.5 seconds left in the 102nd 40-point game of his career.
Durant scored 30 points before fouling out for the first time in his three-year NBA career with 1:31 to play, and former UCLA star Westbrook had 21 points and 13 assists for the Thunder.
"I wish I could have taken back some of the plays that I made, but that's part of the game," Durant said. "I thought I was playing hard. I like to play so much that when I get five fouls, I back off and I'm not so aggressive. ... I know we don't like to take moral victories, but tonight we showed a lot of toughness and a lot of maturity. Even though it was a tough loss, we were right there at the end and could have won it."
Thabo Sefolosha scored 16 points for the Thunder, but just three after halftime - and the guard missed an open 3-point attempt to tie it in the final two minutes. Fisher's season high-tying 15 points included two free throws with 14.9 seconds left, followed by a missed 3-point attempt by Westbrook.
Although the Thunder haven't beaten the Lakers since they were the Seattle SuperSonics, they felt almost as good about themselves as the Lakers.
"It felt real good," Westbrook said of his attempt to tie it. "I did everything I could. You live for moments like that. I thought it was good, but it went in and out, so you can't be mad. The Lakers are a championship team that we were playing, so you've got to play perfect against them. ... I think we've made the next step. We've been doing a real good job of closing games out, but tonight we just had a couple of missed shots at the end."
The Lakers fell behind by double digits early in the second quarter with poor shooting and indifferent play by Ron Artest, who missed a rebound layup attempt when he inexplicably shot it flat-footed. Bryant scored 18 points in the first half, but his fellow starters managed just eight field goals - including none for Andrew Bynum, who went 0 for 5.
NOTES: The Lakers have won seven straight home games against Oklahoma City, and 11 straight home games overall. ... Westbrook got a technical foul in the third quarter for throwing the ball at the basket standard in frustration. ... Courtside fans included actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, designer Diane Von Furstenburg and husband Barry Diller, and figure skater Michelle Kwan.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
OKLAHOMA CITY 30 31 21 26 108
LA LAKERS 25 29 34 23 111 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: OKC - KEVIN DURANT 30, RUSSELL WESTBROOK 21,
TWO PLAYERS WITH 16
LAL - KOBE BRYANT 40, DEREK FISHER 15,
PAU GASOL 15
Dec 23 1:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY 82
LA LAKERS 88 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 23 12:27 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY 61
LA LAKERS 54 HALFTIME
Dec 22 11:41 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 30
LA LAKERS 25 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 22 11:11 PM
- Warriors-Thunder Preview May 23
- Draymond, Westbrook swap barbs over fouls, kicks May 23
- Warriors' Green could face discipline after flagrant foul May 23
- Durant, Westbrook lead Thunder in blowout win over Warriors May 23
- Mark Cuban tells 'Meet The Press' Thunder are his title pick May 22
- NBA's 6-city tour lets US catch up in 3-on-3 basketball May 21
- Warriors-Thunder Preview May 21
- Warriors' big men must come up big in Game 3 against Thunder May 21
- Donovan, Kerr took very different paths to NBA coaching May 21
- Thunder will try to bounce back after big loss to Warriors May 20
- Column: Savor our version of Magic-Bird - Curry vs LeBron May 20
- Stephen Curry's sore right elbow not limiting him on court May 20