Like they have consistently done all season, the Oklahoma City Thunder proved once again why they are the team to beat in the West when they dismantled the Lakers 116-101 at Staples Center.
Kevin Durant absolutely balled out, leading the offensive assault with 42 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Russell Westbrook helped out with 27 points and 10 assists in this winning effort that served as the Lakers’ sixth-straight loss.
Los Angeles put up a fight in the first quarter when their backs were against the ropes, suggesting that they still have what it takes to be a top team in 2013. The Thunder had jumped to an early 11-point lead when the Lakers shredded it by going on an 11-0 run led by Kobe Bryant.
After that though, the Thunder were having none of it.
Oklahoma City surged right back and trounced their way to a 27-point lead in the second half, and the short-handed Lakers never got back into it. Without starting big men Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard for the third straight game, Los Angeles looked sluggish and lost, drowning in a sea of inescapable blue jerseys. Their defense was helpless against the quick-tempo assault of Oklahoma City, and with the ball in their hands, the Lakers couldn’t hit anything from beyond the arc. The only bright spot for LA was Bryant (surprise surprise!), who put up 28 points in this losing effort.
For the Lakers, it means their longest losing streak since 2007 while for OKC, it signaled their seventh win in nine games. In doing so, they matched the Clippers for the best record in the NBA.
In 2011, the Thunder eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs in five games and many thought that in 2012, the two teams would clash in the grandest way possible. Thus far, the Lakers have been nothing short of disappointing and need a movie-star quality ending to rectify this season.
The Thunder advance to 28-8 on the season, while the Lakers limp to a 15-21 record. Oklahoma City next challenges the Portland Trailblazers on Jan. 13.