The battle between teams with two of the top three records in the Western Conference lived up to the advance billing, as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-94, at Staples Center. The game provided an excellent second game for TNT, following the epic game between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic earlier this evening. As they did in the first round of last year's playoffs, the Lakers prevailed over the Thunder.
The game was heavy on star power, as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each scored 21 points to lead the Lakers. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 32 points and 12 assists, and drove to the hole all night at will. Kevin Durant chipped in with 24 points, but struggled from the field, thanks in part to the defense of Ron Artest, making just eight of 24 field goal attempts. Kobe struggled from the free throw line, hitting just six of 11 from the charity stripe.
The Lakers used a 14-0 run in the third quarter to take a 72-59 lead, and spent the rest of the game holding on to that lead. For a while in the late third quarter, tonight seemed like a replica of Sunday's Laker loss to the Clippers, during which the Lakers built a double-digit third quarter lead only to see a younger, faster team erase most of the lead before the quarter ended. Tonight, Oklahoma City cut the Lakers' lead to three points near the end of the third quarter, but a three-pointer by Steve Blake gave the Lakers a six-point lead heading into the fourth.
Andrew Bynum battled foul trouble tonight, which limited his floor time to 22 minutes, but Bynum scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while he was out there. Derek Fisher hit a pair of threes en route to a season-high 15 points on the night, the 10th time Fisher has scored in double figures this season. The Lakers travel to play two more top Western Conference teams later this week, Wednesday in Dallas against the Mavericks, and Friday in Denver to play the Nuggets.
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