Thunder lower boom on Lakers

Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There was a time when the Los Angeles Lakers came to Oklahoma to take on the Thunder that it was the most anticipated game of the season. With guard Kobe Bryant leading the charge, there was guaranteed fireworks in store.
However, it was a different Lakers team that pulled into Oklahoma City on Friday and the Thunder, led by forward Kevin Durant, trounced LA 122-97 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The loss dropped the Lakers (10-12) to 0-3 since Bryant returned to the lineup.
"Tonight was a tough team," Bryant said. "They are a tough team to match up against -- their size and their speed. We ran into a bit of a buzzsaw tonight. But we have another one tomorrow."
Durant had a game-high 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in 31 minutes.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka chipped in with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Russell Westbrook flirted with a triple-double and finished with 19 points. 12 assists and eight rebounds.
"Obviously, they'd rather me (shoot 3-pointers) than drive to the basket," Westbrook said. "But if they keep doing that, they're gonna learn."
The Lakers (10-12) got 14 points and seven rebounds from center Pau Gasol.
Bryant had 13 points but scored only four points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field in 23 minutes. The Lakers dropped to 0-3 since Bryant returned to the lineup.
"He'll fill the gap and get better," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I think he's gotten better every game. There were some really good things he did."
With the Lakers having no healthy point guards available, Bryant was forced into double duty to start the night. In only his third game back from rehabbing a torn Achilles, he not only had to run the offense but was assigned the task of guarding Westbrook.
However, after Westbrook scored a quick seven points, Lakes coach Mike D'Antoni switched Bryant off of Westbrook to rookie guard Andre Roberson.
But it was Durant who had the hot hand early. The NBA's leading scorer collected 12 points to give Oklahoma City a 38-28 lead after 12 minutes.
Guards Wesley Johnson and Jodie Meeks led the Lakers on a surge and closed the Thunder's lead to six. Johnson came off the bench looking for his shot from behind the arc and scored 11 points before Oklahoma was able to doing anything about it.
However, the Thunder responded with a 15-2 run keyed by Durant and reserve guard Reggie Jackson.
Near the end of the first half, Bryant tried to guard Durant the entire length of the court before a foul was called. Both exchanged laughs after the whistle.
"Kobe is the ultimate competitor," Durant said. "I knew he was going to do that. He was going to challenge. With a guy like Kobe, if I don't accept the challenge, I'm going to hear about it for a while."
Throughout the first half, Bryant played facilitator, trying to get the rest of his team involved. In doing so, he took only two shots from the field in entire half as Oklahoma City opened a 66-51 advantage. Oklahoma City set a season high for points scored in the first half. The previous best was 64 against Detroit.
The second half was more of the same as Oklahoma City didn't let up. The Thunder pushed their lead to 20 heading into the fourth quarter and then benched their starters.
The Lakers had no answer for the any of the Thunder's big three or their role players. It was a complete and total route of a team that once was considered a benchmark.
Oklahoma City (18-4) moved to 11-0 at home. It joined the Indiana Pacers as the only tams in the NBA that have yet to lose at home.
"You have to give them credit," Durant said. "They came out really strong -- confident and making shots. We just had to be better. We got a steal and a dunk. I think it ignited us, especially with our crowd."
NOTES: When Lakers G Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon at the end of last season, many didn't know if he would ever play in the NBA again. Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant was not one of them. "Kobe's just a fierce competitor," Durant said. "I didn't even think twice about him coming back and how he would be or if he would lose a step." ... While on the Arsenio Hall Show on Tuesday, NFL great Jim Brown made a few comments about Bryant, including how because "he was brought up in another country, (Bryant) doesn't quite fit what's happening in America." Bryant responded Thursday on Twitter: "A "Global" African American is an inferior shade to "American" African Americans?? #hmm.. that doesn't sound very #Mandela or #DrKing sir." ... Oklahoma City G Thabo Sefolosha missed his third straight game with a sprained right knee. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks described G Russell Westbrook as an unfriendly competitor. "Russell is a very competitive guy," Brooks said. "Russell, he doesn't like a lot of opponents as you guys know. He's not a friendly type of competitor. He wants to beat you."

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