The teams meet for the second time in three days on Friday in Oklahoma City. On Wednesday in Los Angeles, the Thunder pulled within two points with 1:24 remaining but couldn't finish off a late push.
It was still a positive experience for the Thunder, who were playing their second game in two nights and had the top team in the NBA on the ropes. In the end, the Lakers completed the 112-107 victory for their fifth consecutive win.
Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with a season-high 31 points, but his leadership came in more areas than just scoring. The backup guard also got in the face of Anthony Davis when the Lakers star hung on the rim and put a foot on the left shoulder of Nerlens Noel following a dunk attempt after the whistle.
Schroder refused to let the subject die, leading to a technical foul and showing the type of fight that remained until the final whistle. That fight was typified by another reserve player, as Deonte Burton was called on to slow down LeBron James while the Lakers' other superstar was in the midst of another triple-double.
James shot just 1 of 5 from the field in the final 12 minutes, a rut that helped the Thunder make a late 9-0 run that fell a basket short of catching the Lakers.
"(James) is a tough cover for anybody, but he's one of them guys, if he smells fear, it's over for you," the Thunder's Chris Paul said, according to the Daily Oklahoman. "I think (Burton) just accepted the challenge."
James did make history in the game by recording his first career triple-double against Oklahoma City with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. That made him the first player with triple-doubles against all 30 NBA teams.
Davis added 34 points for L.A. after scoring less than 20 in each of his previous two games. It was his highest-scoring game since Oct. 29, when he delivered 40 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
But as good as the Lakers have been at putting up points, their calling card has been defense. The Lakers headed into play Thursday second in the NBA with 101.1 points allowed per game. Giving up 31 to Schroder did not fit their profile.
"We can be better defensively," Davis said. "We kind of took a hit when Avery (Bradley) went down. We're kind of trying to find a new identity on defense without our key defensive guy out there, but we've still been able to win games."
Bradley is out with a hairline fracture in his leg, while the Lakers also played most of the game without Kyle Kuzma, who took a finger to the eye in the second quarter and saw just nine minutes of action. Kuzma is expected to play Friday.
A healthy Kuzma will line up as the Lakers' third-best scoring option and makes the Thunder's task that much more difficult, even at home. But it all starts with what James and Davis do for Los Angeles.
"We're gonna get a steady dose of (Davis) and a steady dose of LeBron all night long," Paul said, according to the Daily Oklahoman.
--Field Level Media