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Well-rested Thunder blast Lakers in series opener

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The question everyone asked was whether the Oklahoma City Thunder would be rested or rusty.

With eight days off after sweeping the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, no one was sure how such a long layoff would impact the Thunder.

It's pretty safe to say Oklahoma City's rhythm remained right where it needs to be.

The Thunder didn't miss a beat in Game 1 of its Western Conference semifinal series against the Los Angeles Lakers, cruising to a 119-90 win on Monday night in Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"I think we needed a few days, to be honest," said Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who had 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists. "With the way the season was going, we were playing almost every other day, so a few days did help. But coach (Scott Brooks) did a great job of letting us go at it in practice and compete hard in practice. That got us ready, and we came out with a lot of energy.

"We're going to need to do that for the rest of the series. It's going to be a tough, tough series, but we're looking forward to it."

By halftime, the outcome was no longer in doubt, and the Thunder extended a 15-point lead at the break to as many as 35 late in the third quarter. With the rout under way, no Thunder starter needed to play a single second in the fourth quarter.

"We got beat tonight," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "You can say anything you want to about the seven-game series and us having a day or whatever, but the bottom line is this is the playoffs and we have to come to play. We didn't. We got beat. It's one game, so we have to bounce back to the next one."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 27 points and added seven rebounds and nine assists for Oklahoma City. James Harden finished with 17 points off the bench.

Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 20 apiece for the Lakers. Metta World Peace chipped in with 12 points, and Pau Gasol had 10 points and seven rebounds.

The Thunder shot a blistering 53 percent and held the Lakers to 43.2 percent.

"It was a team effort," Westbrook said. "Everybody came out and did a great job of distributing the ball and finding open guys and getting easy shots."

Oklahoma City took control by closing the first quarter on a 16-5 run, turning a four-point deficit 6 1/2 minutes in into a 30-23 advantage. Reserve guard Daequan Cook made a buzzer-beating jumper off an inbounds pass for the final margin in the quarter.

The Lakers went on to face a 59-44 halftime deficit, as Westbrook, Harden and Durant continued to pour it on. That trio combined for 38 points in the first half, going 14-for-30 from the field.

"It's their explosiveness," Bryant said. "When they go on runs, they go on big runs. We have to do a better job when those runs take place and cut that water off right away. Once they get going, it goes downhill quickly."

Los Angeles got solid first-half contributions from its big men, which generally is a good sign for the Lakers. Bynum had a team-high 14 points and led all players with nine rebounds at the break, while Gasol added six points and seven rebounds. Bryant, meanwhile, had 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting.

Oklahoma City capitalized on superb ball security, turning it over only once to lead to two Lakers points and turning eight Los Angeles turnovers into 16 points. That aspect of the game was a chief key for the Thunder entering the series, and Oklahoma City executed it to near perfection in the opening half. The Thunder also held a 20-2 margin in bench points at the break.

"We played good basketball," Brooks said. "Like I told the guys, it's one game. It's the first team to four that will win this series. And come Wednesday night, regardless of you won by one or 20, it doesn't have an impact on Wednesday night. We have to come back with the same energy. We know the Lakers are going to play much better."

NOTES: Thunder center Kendrick Perkins re-injured his strained right hip muscle while trying to finish a dunk with 10:14 remaining in the third quarter. He was removed from the game and immediately taken to the locker room. He did not return. Perkins had been day-to-day since sustaining the injury on May 5 in the Thunder's closeout game against Dallas. ... Minutes before tip-off, Harden was presented with the Sixth Man of the Year trophy at center court. ... Harden checked into the game for the first time with 4:06 remaining and received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. With World Peace on the floor, it was the first time the two shared the court since World Peace delivered a vicious elbow to Harden's head in the last regular-season meeting between the teams. World Peace served a seven-game suspension for his actions.

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