OKLAHOMA CITY — There was a time when the Los Angeles Lakers came to Oklahoma to take on the Thunder, it was the most anticipated game of the season. With guard Kobe Bryant leading the charge, there were guaranteed fireworks in store.
However, it was a different Lakers team that pulled into Oklahoma City on Friday. Led by forward Kevin Durant, the Thunder trounced L.A. 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 buzz saw tonight. But we have another one tomorrow.”
Durant had a game-high 31 points on 10-for-13 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in 31 minutes of action. Forward Serge Ibaka chipped in with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Russell Westbrook flirted with a near triple-double as he collected 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 got 14 points and seven rebounds from center Pau Gasol, while Bryant handed out 13 assists but scored only four points on 2-for-6 shooting in 23 minutes.
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, he was assigned the task of guarding Westbrook.
However, after Westbrook scored a quick seven points, Lakes coach Mike D’Antoni switched Kobe off of Westbrook and on 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 of action.