Thunder pound Lakers for 3rd straight loss since Kobe’s return
Three games into his comeback from injury, Kobe Bryant remains a work in progress for the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder continued their early season roll Friday night.
Durant had 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Russell Westbrook added 19 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds and the Thunder routed the Los Angeles Lakers 122-97.
Serge Ibaka added 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season and Reggie Jackson also scored 19 for Oklahoma City, which has won five straight and 13 of its past 14 games.
The Thunder are unbeaten in 11 home games this season and have won four straight at home over the Lakers.
"We have a pretty good team," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "That’s been the case for a while now. One of the things that I tell the guys, every season has its own identity.
"We started the season knowing that we wanted to … just continue to build trust in each other and just focus on each other and not worry about anything else, but trying to make your teammates look good. It’s early, but we’ve done a great job with that."
Los Angeles has lost all three games since Bryant’s return from a torn Achilles tendon. Bryant had 13 assists — just two shy of his career high — but showed little of his trademark offensive ability, finishing with four points on 2-of-6 shooting. He played 23 minutes and sat out the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.
"There is no secret formula that you can sprinkle out there," Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said. "He’ll get more comfortable, then the guys will get more comfortable around him and then he’ll do a better job."
Nick Young led the Lakers with 17 points. Xavier Henry, playing in his hometown, scored 15 points for Los Angeles while Pau Gasol had 14 points and seven rebounds.
Oklahoma City made quick work of the Lakers, setting season highs with 38 points in the first quarter and 66 points in the first half. Oklahoma City’s lead was mostly in double digits from the three-minute mark of the first quarter on. The Thunder finished with a season-high 34 assists and outrebounded the Lakers 59-41.
"They’re a good team and they just beat us," D’Antoni said. "That’s number one. Our defense is not keeping it in front of us right now and offensive rebounds, it’s been a problem for us for a while. We turn the ball over too much. It’s a combination of them outrunning us and them getting to the boards."
The Lakers played without three injured point guards — Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake — forcing Bryant into the position even as he works his way back from his injury. Los Angeles committed 19 turnovers, including seven by Bryant.
Los Angeles jumped to a quick 13-7 lead and briefly looked as if it might stay with the Thunder, but Durant exited a timeout with a dunk and a 16-foot jumper to ignite an 18-3 run that put Oklahoma City in control.
A 10-0 run by the Lakers early in the second quarter pulled them within 44-38, but Oklahoma City answered with a 12-0 spurt and the lead remained in double digits the rest of the way. The Thunder led 66-51 at halftime and weren’t challenged after that.
As good as they’ve been playing, Durant said the Thunder still have room for improvement.
"We just want to play our best brand of basketball at the right time," he said. "But we can’t do that unless we focus on today. Today we did a good job of playing together and playing hard on the defensive end. We can’t think about April. We’ve got to get past these days.
"We can be a lot better. There are a lot of things we need to work on — transition defense, rebounding, passing. On offense we’ve got to flow a little better. But our chemistry is growing. That’s the most important thing."
On the Lakers’ first two possessions, Bryant was tied up by Oklahoma City rookie Andre Roberson, then had the ball stolen by Westbrook. Bryant didn’t take a shot until making a steal that led to a breakaway with 3:50 left in the first quarter, but he eschewed dunking the ball, instead laying it off the backboard.
Bryant went 2 of 2 from the field in the first half and was a bit more aggressive after halftime, but missed all four of his shots. It was his second single-digit scoring outing since returning from his injury on Sunday.
Westbrook’s double-double was his fifth of the season. Durant finished 10 of 13 from the field while Ibaka went 8 of 13. Wesley Johnson added 13 points for Los Angeles.
NOTES: After missing three games with back spasms, Lakers C Chris Kaman suited up Friday and entered the game at the start of the fourth quarter. He finished with nine points. … Thunder G Thabo Sefolosha missed his third straight game with a sprained right knee. The team said he remains day to day. … Young received a technical foul from official David Guthrie early in the second quarter after complaining following a 3-pointer by Oklahoma City’s Jeremy Lamb. … Oklahoma City recorded its 99th straight regular-season sellout at Chesapeake Energy Arena. … Jackson has hit at least one 3-pointer in 10 straight games for Oklahoma City. … Lakers C Robert Sacre grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.