Oklahoma City at Los Angeles

Kobe hits 40 points as Lakers struggle to beat Thunder

CBSSports.com wire reports
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers' misguided passes, ill-advised shots and indifferent defense were all symptoms of the malaise that often hits a team returning home from a long road trip.

As usual with any malady befalling the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had the cure -- even with a sore knee.

Bryant scored 40 points for the sixth time this season, and the NBA-leading Lakers shook off a rough first half before hanging on for their 16th victory in 17 games, 111-108 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.

Bryant persevered through a scary stumble, an elbow to the jaw and a night of tough defense from Kevin Durant and the Thunder, who came agonizingly close to a breakthrough victory against the defending champions.

Pau Gasol had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the road-weary Lakers, who needed two last-minute free throws apiece from Bryant and Derek Fisher to win in their return from a five-game road trip.

"The first home game back is always tough when you're trying to find that groove," Bryant said. "We trust our defense, and we understand what we're capable of doing. It was really just a matter of finding that rhythm."

The Lakers really only found it in a 34-21 third quarter -- the sole period in which they outscored the Thunder, who dropped back below .500 with their fifth loss in six games. After trailing by 12 in the first half, Los Angeles blew most of an 11-point lead in the fourth.

Baskets by Russell Westbrook and James Harden twice cut the Lakers' lead to one in the final 25 seconds, but Bryant and Fisher sealed Los Angeles' 12th consecutive victory against Oklahoma City.

"They were sharper than we were, and we just had to work really hard," Gasol said. "You come in tired from the road, and the time difference has a little impact. I'm not sure why, but it does happen. Luckily, we were able to get past it."

Playing at home for the first time since breaking his right index finger in a game against Minnesota, Bryant had another injury scare when he landed awkwardly on his left knee while putting up a backward layup with 5:08 to play. He stayed down on the court for several moments, but shot his own free throws after a timeout -- only to take an elbow to the jaw from Westbrook with 3:55 left.

Bryant persevered, drawing Durant's sixth foul before hitting two free throws with 19.5 seconds left in the 102nd 40-point game of his career.

Durant scored 30 points before fouling out for the first time in his three-year NBA career with 1:31 to play, and former UCLA star Westbrook had 21 points and 13 assists for the Thunder.

"I wish I could have taken back some of the plays that I made, but that's part of the game," Durant said. "I thought I was playing hard. I like to play so much that when I get five fouls, I back off and I'm not so aggressive. ... I know we don't like to take moral victories, but tonight we showed a lot of toughness and a lot of maturity. Even though it was a tough loss, we were right there at the end and could have won it."

Thabo Sefolosha scored 16 points for the Thunder, but only three after halftime -- and the guard missed an open 3-point attempt to tie it in the final two minutes. Fisher's season high-tying 15 points included two free throws with 14.9 seconds left, followed by a missed 3-point attempt by Westbrook.

Although the Thunder haven't beaten the Lakers since they were the Seattle SuperSonics, they felt almost as good about themselves as the Lakers.

"It felt real good," Westbrook said of his attempt to tie it. "I did everything I could. You live for moments like that. I thought it was good, but it went in and out, so you can't be mad. The Lakers are a championship team that we were playing, so you've got to play perfect against them. ... I think we've made the next step. We've been doing a real good job of closing games out, but tonight we just had a couple of missed shots at the end."

The Lakers fell behind by double digits early in the second quarter with poor shooting and indifferent play by Ron Artest, who missed a rebound layup attempt when he inexplicably shot it flat-footed. Bryant scored 18 points in the first half, but his fellow starters managed only eight field goals -- including none for Andrew Bynum, who went 0 for 5.

Notes

  • The Lakers have won seven consecutive home games against Oklahoma City, and 11 consecutive home games overall.
  • Westbrook got a technical foul in the third quarter for throwing the ball at the basket standard in frustration.
  • Courtside fans included actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, designer Diane Von Furstenburg and husband Barry Diller, and figure skater Michelle Kwan.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
 
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Kobe Bryant, who's making 40-point outings a regular occurrence, also gets eight boards and six dimes.  (AP)
Kobe Bryant, who's making 40-point outings a regular occurrence, also gets eight boards and six dimes. (AP)

Scoreboard
Oklahoma City (13-14) 30312126108
L.A. Lakers (23-4) «25293423111
OKC:K. Durant 30 Pts
OKC:S. Ibaka 14 Reb
OKC:R. Westbrook 13 Ast
LAL:K. Bryant 40 Pts
LAL:P. Gasol 11 Reb
LAL:K. Bryant 6 Ast
Players of the Game
Los AngelesOklahoma City

K. Bryant

R. Westbrook
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
408621713
Oklahoma City
J. Green, PF435-111-274312
R. Westbrook, PG429-213-4713421
K. Durant, SF4111-197-834630
T. Sefolosha, SF336-112-253216
N. Krstic, C150-24-41134
S. Ibaka, PF284-120-014138
J. Harden, SG266-142-220316
N. Collison, PF120-11-21061
E. Thomas, CDid Not Play
B. Mullens, CDid Not Play
K. Ollie, PGDid Not Play
K. Weaver, SGDid Not Play
D. White, PFDid Not Play
E. Maynor, PGDid Not Play
M. Wilks, PGDid Not Play
S. Livingston, PGDid Not Play
Totals 41-9120-24402630108
 45.1%83.3% 
Los Angeles
K. Bryant, SG4414-2612-1486540
R. Artest, SF395-100-275212
P. Gasol, PF385-105-6111315
D. Fisher, PG324-94-414215
A. Bynum, C293-95-772411
L. Odom, PF293-114-491112
S. Brown, PG122-32-21026
J. Farmar, PG110-20-01000
S. Vujacic, SG60-10-02110
L. Walton, SFDid Not Play
J. Powell, PFDid Not Play
A. Morrison, SFDid Not Play
D. Mbenga, CDid Not Play
Totals 36-8132-39472020111
 44.4%82.1% 
Other Games
Phi 98 Final
Wash 105
Det 76 Final
Char 88
Ind 94 Final
Bos 103
Chi 81 Final
NY 88
Atl 112 Final
Min 87
GS 108 Final
Mem 121
Port 85 Final
Dal 81
LAC 99 Final
Hou 108