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Bryant takes over to lead Lakers past Thunder

Feb 25, 2009 - 5:50 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Kevin Durant continued his quiet ascent to superstardom, while Kobe Bryant showed him how to put a team on his back.

Bryant scored 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Pau Gasol added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Derek Fisher chipped in 12 points for the Lakers, who picked up their fifth straight win.

"We have a real veteran squad, guys with championship experience, and our younger guys have a lot fire," Bryant said. "We are going to need all of that plus the defensive effort we had for us to bring another title to L.A."

Durant, who entered the contest averaging over 32.0 points this month, filled up the box score with 32 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. The second-year star has gone over 30 points in nine of the last 10 games.

But while Durant is a young star on a team in turmoil, Bryant is the reigning MVP on the clear best team in the Western Conference.

"Kobe Bryant proved again tonight that he is the premier scorer in this league, and even when everyone else isn't firing on all cylinders, they can still win ballgames," interim Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said.

"Anytime a team like the Lakers, Celtics, or Cavs come into town, everyone in the arena gets excited for the game, but if you don't win it, it doesn't matter," Durant said. "It still counts as a one loss, just like all the others. I am glad we were able to play well enough to get back into it, but Kobe came back in and took the game over."

When Kyle Weaver's three-point play brought the Thunder to within 79-77 with 9:33 left in the game, Bryant scored 10 of Los Angeles' next 12 points and pushed the edge back to 91-82 with 6:31 left.

"One thing we didn't want to do was to let this crowd get back into it," Bryant said. "They are a young team and they feed off of it. They cut the lead to one, and I knew I had to get back in there and stop that momentum a little bit."

Bryant actually checked himself into the game as the Thunder closed the gap.

"(Lakers coach) Phil (Jackson) trusts my judgment," Bryant said. "Not many guys can just check themselves into the game, but we had played so well in the first half that I wasn't going to let us lose what we had worked so hard to build."

Oklahoma City managed only one field goal over the final 5:44 as the Lakers closed the contest with a 16-8 surge.

"Defensively, we had to turn it back on in the fourth quarter," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds. "I feel like we can be much better on that end of the floor than we were tonight. I don't know if all of our guys were in it whole-heartedly all night, but we picked it up when we needed to."

Bryant finished 13-of-21 from the field and 10-of-13 from the free-throw line.

"They came out on fire, and they are a tough team to score on," Durant said. "This is one of our better defensive games, I think we forced them to take tough shots. But a guy like Kobe Bryant makes those shots - that's just the type of player he is. He can make the tough shots look easy."

Weaver added 16 points and Russell Westbrook finished with 14 for the Thunder, who managed to stay in the game thanks in part to a 45-30 rebounding edge.

"They are very solid on defense, they rotate well, they are long athletes that make it hard to see the rest of the floor," Weaver said. "They are on another level in the things they do than a lot of other teams in the league. They forced us into tough shots early, and I think we pressed a bit and got ourselves into a hole that we just couldn't get out of."

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