The Norman Transcript

March 14, 2014

Thunder learn from previous loss

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — When the Oklahoma City Thunder plays with a chip on its shoulder, they can be one of the most explosive teams in the NBA.

Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder were still upset by the teams last encounter Sunday, in which they lost by four. That was enough to fuel a 131-102 victory over the Lakers on Thursday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"I'm always pissed about losing the game," Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. "I'm pretty sure everyone else was mad, too. I was thinking about this game since I left L.A."

Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant each scored 29 points to lead the Thunder. It was Durant's 30th straight game in which he has posted 25 or more points, which is the second longest in the NBA since Michael Jordan's 40 game streak in 1986-87.

"Every time they needed something, they got it," Lakers guard Jordan Farmar said. "Whether it was Durant making shots or Westbrook being aggressive. Tonight, it just seemed like one of those nights where every time we had some positive momentum, they did something to combat that."

In each of the past three games, the Thunder (48-17) jumped out to large leads to only see them shrink by the fourth quarter. One of those losses came against the Lakers (22-43) in Los Angeles on Sunday, in which they surrendered an 18 point lead.

It looked like it was going to take place a fourth straight contest when the Lakers cut a 23-point deficit to 11 midway through the third quarter at 69-58.

With Durant on the bench with four fouls, Westbrook led the Thunder on a 21-5 run.

"I thought the second half we were trying to creep back in and Westbrook had about three straight 3-pointers, banked one in," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We fouled him on the three, so there was about 12 points. It was just one of those nights."

But it was forward Serge Ibaka's defense prowess around the basket that was just as important. His seven blocked shots got the Thunder fast break running.

That included him swatting a layup by the Lakers as the clock was running down. Guard Reggie Jackson pushed the ball up court to forward Caron Butler, who buried a 3-pointer as the third quarter buzzer sounded. Oklahoma City led 101-77 and never looked back.

Westbrook handed out nine assists to go along with three steals. Ibaka finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds to go along with his blocked shot totals. Butler scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds as he continues to supplant himself into the Thunder rotation. As a team, the Thunder outrebounded L.A. 60-37.

Guard Jodie Meeks scored 19 points to lead the Lakers. It was far below his 42-point effort Sunday.

"He just happened to get lucky the first time," Westbrook said. "We're not worried about what Jodie Meeks does."

Forward Kent Bazemore came off the bench to post 16 points and seven rebounds. Center Pau Gasol scored 14 points in the defeat.

Westbrook's fiery play from Tuesday against Houston carried over into the first quarter against the Lakers. He began the evening with a steal and breakaway dunk. He ended the quarter with 11 points in seven minutes as Oklahoma City held a 33-19 lead.

It doesn't get any easier for the Lakers, who will face the San Antonio Spurs next. "These are good teams and we have a chance to compete and a chance to upset somebody," D'Antoni said. "So why not try."

 

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth

mkinney@normantranscript.com

 

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