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Lakers overcome challenges in 101-94 victory over Oklahoma City Thunder


A new player introduction flashed before the Staples Center scoreboard that perfectly summed up the team's state of being.

"A new dynasty demands excellence, requires patience. A dynasty falls down, rises up and rages on. A champion never stops and never quits."

In between the platitudes, the video featured several highlights capturing the 2010-11 season, ranging from Kobe Bryant jumpers, Pau Gasol hooks, Andrew Bynum dunks and Lamar Odom drives. But that video served as nothing more than just a movie trailer that featured all the best parts but ignored all the plot twists along the way. And in the Lakers' case, there's been several instances all season that's added intrigue to their quest to three-peat. Winning streaks marred by poor performances against both sub.-500 and marquee opponents. Reports focusing on the state of Bryant's and Andrew Bynum's health, Pau Gasol's tardiness, Ron Artest's frustration with Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom's fixation with celebrity, Derek Fisher's inconsistency and the team's overall hunger.

Yet, what the Lakers' 101-94 victory on Monday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder reveals is that challenges will remain throughout the season and into the playoffs. The Thunder presented challenges with cashing in on transition (16), the league-leading duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (56 combined points) and a young and hungry team that kept slashing as large as a 15-point Lakers' lead with the same determination that forced the Lakers to fight it out in a six-game, first round series in the 2010 playoffs. The Lakers surely entered similar circumstances the night before against the Clippers, a young and scrappy team that managed to overcome a deficit thanks to the same ingredients in fast-break buckets, quick guard play (Eric Gordon) and a young star intent on carrying the organization (Blake Griffin).

Just like the video board demonstrated, the Lakers' path to three-peat is supposed to bring challenges. But what defines the Lakers is how they respond to it, a test Coach Phil Jackson remembered serving the team well after surviving its first-round series last season against the Thunder. As a result, the Lakers (31-12) trail San Antonio (35-6) by five games in the Western Conference standings, hold a two-game lead over the Thunder (27-13), ended its four-game winning streak and worsened its 15-4 mark in games decided by seven points or less.

"Our offensive execution last year was what had to improve and the series against Oklahoma helped us think it out," Jackson said. "It got us going. Obviously the Utah series, we were going as well as we played."

Unlike the Lakers' 8-0 start, relatively easy schedule to start off the season and superior talent level, it's in fact necessary for the Lakers to fight through challenges, whether it be absorbing Bynum's absence to start the season, handling Matt Barnes' expected eight-week absence following surgery on his injured right knee or locker-room friction.

"We need adversity," Fisher said. "We need ups-and-downs. That's really where true growth takes place is during struggles and adverse situations. That goes for individuals as well as groups. As a team after tough losses or a bad stretch, you're forced to look in the mirror and you have to question some things. Are we doing the right things offensively and defensively. Without that, you never ask yourself those tough questions."

And with the Lakers approaching a tough schedule the next two weeks against Western Conference playoff teams in Dallas, Denver and Utah as well as a possible NBA Finals reunion with the Boston Celtics, the Thunder provided a good opening act on the adversities that lie ahead.


Bryant struggles at the free throw line, but carries the offense

 Bryant epitomized the Lakers' nervousness as the Thunder remained within striking distance. Nearly everyone at Staples Center thought the Lakers secured the win after Bryant set up Gasol for a jumper at the charity stripe, giving the Lakers a 98-88 lead with 3:47 remaining. After the Thunder called timeout, the two chest-bumped before walking over to the sideline. It appeared the Lakers' work was done.

Two consecutive turnovers, however, led to Thunder points in transition. Then he missed three of six free throws with each short shot prompting Bryant to wince in frustration and teammates to encourage him.

"I was point shaving," Bryant deadpanned, drawing strong laughs from reporters.

By no means, however, did free throws define Bryant's performance. But the supportive gestures and prodding as he tried closing the game with free throws reflected the give-and-take Bryant provided the entire night toward his teammates, scoring 21 points on seven of 12 shooting with seven assists and five rebounds.

He only took one shot in the first quarter, opting for a facilitating role where he would find open cutters, whether it was Gasol for jumpers or Bynum for dunks. It also included a defensive role where he largely took on the task in defending Westbrook, fulfilling an unwinnable task that entails making him work for points and making sure no one else gets theirs.

In both instances, he harped and encouraged.

When Gasol mishandled an easy pass from Bryant, he scolded and then patted him on the back. "When Kobe is very vocal during the game, it has a positive effect on us," Gasol said. When Odom missed a defensive assignment, Bryant glared and yelled, while Odom nodded and listened. When Artest didn't know where to go on offense, Bryant vocally provided directions. When the Lakers didn't help out on screen-and-rolls involving Westbrook in the first half, his halftime instruction helped sharpen the execution in the second.

"I told my big guys to get their .... up there," Bryant said. "If I'm going to get lit up, I'm going to get lit up one-on-one. I'm not going to get lit up because they don't show up. That's exactly what I said. I'm not going to light my ... up because they're .... up. I'm not down with that."

It's not as if Bryant lacked any offensive aggressiveness, however. He just performed it when it was appropriate, such as when he weaved through a double team and finished with a two-handed slam that conjured up images of his younger playing days, his clutch jumper over James Harden that left his teeth clenched or the last two free throws he nailed that gave the Lakers a 101-94 lead with 15.1 seconds remaining.


Gasol overcomes a poor first-half performance

At a loss of explanations, Gasol has continued a trend where he's slugged through games, allowing his bottom-line statistics to camouflage poor energy, poor hustle and poor determination to fight through adversity. It appeared to be the same script for Gasol in the first half against Oklahoma City with a four-of-11 shooting clip. It pointed to the Thunder front line playing him physical, denying him good looks and fueling his frustration for zero trips to the free-throw line. 

In the second half, however, Gasol went four of eight from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and proved he could be resilient during adverse moments. He tipped in a Bryant miss. He converted off a bounce pass from Odom. And he went five of five from the free-throw line, a strategy that consisted of Oklahoma City throwing hard fouls in hopes it'd intimidate the Lakers' front line, frustrate them and limit their production. 

Asked for what's accounted for the first and second-half disparity, Jackson said he had no explanation: "I can't. You'd have to ask him about that. I'd be curious on what he would have to say." Gasol didn't say anything, though. "I'm not sure exactly why I haven't been as sharp as I normally have in the past, Gasol. I have to be positive and work on everything with my body and make sure I am efficient as I can be."

But Gasol fought through it, a necessary effort considering Bynum posted an acceptable 10 points and 10 rebounds but played only 22 minutes while collecting five fouls.

"I tried to make it easier for Pau," Bryant said. Instead of him banging and banging in the post, have him penetrate, slipping out and get some easy shots. All in al, I felt we read our coverages very well, got penetration, kicked it out, got open looks. That's a big key."


Artest plays exceptional defense on Durant

Artest joked in the locker room beforehand that he's going to spend his rescinded fine money from an ejection the day before against the Clippers on 10,000 In-N-Out Burgers, even going so far as to say that's the only reason he signed a five-year, $33-million deal with the Lakers in the 2009 offseason. In reality, Artest takes his dieting seriously and slimmed from 270 pounds to 250 this offseason in hopes he'd be more mobile and agile to defend Durant, though he was held to 35% during the first-round of the playoffs.

"He's working out maybe too much, too often," Jackson said. "You look at Ron, he's got a body like a bear. It's wide and broad. He's not built to get through screens and all those kind of things like Trevor [Ariza] was. This is a guy that's got to use his body and his muscular nature to defend."

Jackson then added: "I think he'll do fine."

That he did.

Durant finished one point below his regular-season average (24), but Artest made him work for his shot and provied largely instrumental in Durant's eight-of-24 shooting mark from the field, an effort that Fisher argues shows, "Ron is one of the best ever defensively." 

Numerous instances, Artest made sure he'd remained glued to Durant. He cut through the lane to catch up to Durant as he penetrated baseline. He communicated with Bynum to switch on a pick-and-roll play as well as with Bryant when the two traded matchups on Durant and Westbrook to stop them from scoring in transition. And the shots Durant made mostly dropped with Artest in his face.

"Ron just stuck to him a little bit more," Bryant said. "I think we did a better job helping him off those pindowns. It's the same thing with me and Westbrook. Guys getting screens coming off, you got to have guys stepping up and giving you help for a second to help you get back on them. I think we did a lot better job in the second half."

That doesn't mean Artest completely fulfilled his responsibilities, as indicated by his reluctance to offer himself much praise. On one play he appeared so fixated with guarding Durant that he ignored Serge Ibaka flashing toward him in the lane. On another, he ignored Nick Collison cutting alone to the hoop for a dunk. And on others he appeared unaware of his needed presence on help defense, worried that a baseline cut or screen would enable to get Durant open for a basket.

"I had to work double time on defense," Artest said. "I didn't have a chance to get to go at him like I wanted to. As the game progressed, I didn't get a chance to work on him more. But I still did okay. I just had to work overtime." 


Fisher shakes off shooting slump

Fisher shared the same frustration on his three-of-18 mark in the last three games as passionately Laker fans. He argued he missed easy shots, couldn't establish a rhythm and didn't always operate appropriately within the offense. So this time Fisher made sure he would takes that would be.

Fisher's season-high 15 points on five-of-10 shooting, a mark Jackson said "says something right there," doesn't just mark him as overcoming his poor shooting numbers. It showed a renewed focus on better shot selection. He took a wide-open three predicated on sharp ball movement to give the Lakers a 5-0 lead. He efficiently drove through the lane and nailed a floater followed by a three-pointer to give the Lakers a 63-59 lead with 9:39 left in the third quarter. And for good measure he made numerous deflections and a took a late-game charge that both spurred a momentum push and sent a strong message to the rest of the team.

"It was something that was really bothering me after the game last night," Fisher said of his shooting struggles. "It was something I wanted to correct."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts after power forward Pau Gasol scores against the Thunder on Monday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hangs on the rim after dunking against the Thunder in the second quarter Monday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol cuts off the drive of Oklahoma City guard James Harden on a pick-and-roll play in the first half Monday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest tries to muscle his way past Thunder guard James Harden and forward Nick Collison, who was called for a foul on the play in the first half Monday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher draws a blocking foul from Thunder power forward Jeff Green in the second quarter Monday night at Staples Center. Credit: Cary Edmondson / US Presswire

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ARISE MIGHTY LAKERS NATION! THE SWAGGERS BACK !! TRULY!!! *_________________________________________________________________________* _ I Love LA - Here comes Lakers
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NOTE : I Was in the middle of a months vacation when I came back last Friday because Folks thought I had left for good. I’m resuming my vacation as of NOW, till the end of the month when we play Boston Jan. 30. Hopefully that dynamic man of a thousand talents LEWSTRS will do the Roll Call which in my opinion he does so much better. Be nice Laker Nation. Don’t Fight! Love Ya All!! OK…Back to basketball

the Lakers tied the first quater and then won EVERY other quarter. that is always a win, afaik...

Hi there Lakers fam!

'zup Mamba24 aka Larry! I've been lurking since we won the Championship last June. It's so funny reading all them trolls posts, it's like Deja Vu. In the end, we will still be Champs, again. And these trolls will again, disappear.

Anyway, just droppin by and gettin ready for June 2011.

Keep the faith!


thought team responded well to The Thunder. even Pau showed up to play. :) I'm not looking for "blow outs", just a team willing to get out there and fight. Good Win Lakers!!!


Thanks for all you do. Talk to you on the 30th and in the meantime enjoy all the Laker victories and have a great vacation.

Jackson 5 - Enjoy Yourself

I like how Artest played last night.
Fisher played very well as well, let's hope more these blue moons keep rising.

The Lakers played a great game against a young, starving, talented team on the second game of a back-to-backer and had things well in control last night from my observation. At least that's the feeling I had from my seat, despite the runs of the Thunder's dynamic, young team. If you go to enough games, you can sense the ones we're going to hold on to, and last night was one of them. Not only did we withstand a barrage of fast breaks and dunks, Derek Fisher withstood some of the most vicious, relentless attacks from certain LA Times bloggers since they attacked him leading up to his buzzer beater against the Clippers in December. I'm convinced his skims these blogs. His pre-game inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. thoughts that he shared with the crowd probably motivated him as well.

It was a great, close game as it should have been. By the way, the Lakers are now a stunning 8-1 on the second night of these back-to-backers, so let's try looking at some positives this season as it unfolds. The Lakers have also just won 8 of their last 9 and 10 of their last 12. Not bad.

If Fish put up number like that every night it would be a nice addition to their arsenal of scoring options.
Drew will need to figure out how to stay out of foul trouble, he could have done more damage playing more than 22 mins.
Seems might be a good strategy to go right at him early and often to try and get him some fouls.
Nice balance in the scoring and shot attempts but too many turnovers.
Any win is a good win but especially nice to beat a team like OKC.

Great game for Fish! I love the guy, but it has been hard watching him play for most of the year. Vintage D-Fish!

That was a tough game! The Lakers played like they gave a crap. I like the on-court communication.

Ron has his groove on. He played awesome D. Durant wasn’t going to light him up at Staples. Excellent!

Pau woke up in the second half. When Kobe and Pau get it going at the end of games, they are almost impossible to stop.

Drew got in foul trouble but played well.

Lamar was his usual great self – usual for this year.

Blake hit a shot! And it was a three!

Luke was awesome off the bench. He was the only bench player with a positive +/-.

We hit our 3’s, they didn’t… ;-)

I am a Lakerholic.


Lol, Fish has been getting vicious, relentless attacks on this blog since way, way before December. Measure it in years, not weeks/months.
If he reads this blog he must be a bit of a masochist, though if he ever did read it he probably stopped a long time ago.
Nice to see he put up some good numbers last night.

@Mamba24.... Gonna miss the Bandwagons, but you have yourself a great vacation. Lewstrs does an exceptional job when your gone. Have a Hot Toddy for the Body and enjoy the Bears, Packs game! Check in on Jan.30th!

The first half was extremely hard to watch along with parts of the second. I was pretty disappointed with Shanon's decision making. Come on, the back to back turnovers have got to stop.
The second half was a bit more entertaining, but again the turnovers and the long shots leading to fastbreak points nearly wasted a very good DFish performance. Yup, a W is a W and I won't give it back.

Oh, and 27 or ouchhh or whoever you are...If you don't like the blog anymore, there are others out there to post on OR you can ignore the non-BB posts and stick to pure ballin' posts.

Mamba24 - see, giving a timetable chills people out instantly.


oh 27bloggers, who elected you hall monitor?

Nice game last night. I agree with KobeMVP when he says that the game seemed in control throughout. The Lakers seemed determined to nip the losing in the bud and start a new winning streak. Nice when the team shoots 50% from the field and from beyond the arc (7-14). It's amazing how good things look when a few more open shots fall.

Westbrook and Durant are quite the handful. Ron did a good job on Durant, but that kid is scary. Ditto Westbrook. But, despite his gaudy stats, 32 pts. & 12 assists, Westy falls short in getting his teammates involved. The rest of the team had only one double figure scorer (Ibaka with 11) and Jeff Green and Harden didn't do much. OKC was a two headed monster last night and that helped the Lakers win. Had those peripheral players been a little more involved, the Thunder might have gotten out of L.A. with a win.

@Art-FL Lakers Fan: You wrote....

Drew will need to figure out how to stay out of foul trouble, he could have done more damage playing more than 22 mins.
Seems might be a good strategy to go right at him early and often to try and get him some fouls.

Posted by: Art - FL Lakers Fan | January 18, 2011 at 07:01 AM

I'm sure that you noticed that most of Drew's fouls were against Westbrook after Russell had penetrated past Kobe. I think at least 3 of Drew's 5 fouls came that way. It's pretty hard to contain Westbrook once he's got a head of steam and with Drew standing inside the restricted area it will almost always be called in Russell's favor. For sure, this is something that Drew will have to work on; contesting shots without fouling. Seemed like Westbrook was in the paint all night!


People gotta sleep.

I guess big picture - Lakers are 1-1 in two games versus Clippers and OKC. Probably many would have predicted that a possibility, although switched around who won and who lost to Lakers.

Better effort last night. Now focus in road games is needed as we go into hostile arenas and yet more PG and decent 3pt shooting opponents' trouble.

Free throw practice may be in order today for the Lake Show.

A lot of people here are saying Pau played well, but I thought he was feminine like last night.

The Thunder have one of the Best "Free Throw" Defenses Against the Lakers in the Business! It started in the Playoffs last season and continued last night. What was it? Held the Lakers to something like 59%...

That and too many unforced turnovers made this game closer than it should've been after the Lakers' D kicked in in the 2nd half...

A good bounce back after yesterdays 4th quarter implosion...

A good enough win to send the Trolls back under the 3rd Street bridge (for the time being)...

Go Lakers!!!!!! got it. lol!


A lot of people here are saying Pau played well, but I thought he was feminine like last night.

Posted by: Magia32 | January 18, 2011 at 08:08 AM

I wouldn't go that far. I thought that Pau played a good game in the 2nd half. I will say this. Pau had too many rebounds slapped or raked out of his hands. And, when he throws those little flip shots at the rim, it drives me to distraction.

I wouldn't call Pau soft. Not after the last 2 playoffs when he stood up to the Celtics and to Dwight Howard. But I do think Pau could be a little harder. I've commented many times how I feel that Pau has done himself a disservice by not being more committed to strength training.Pau is a very good of the NBA's best. But he could be even better.

Just One Man's Opinion.


Let's see.........You want Kobe to score, create offense for the bigs, close the game............AND guard Westbrook. If Kobe does all of that what is Fisher doing? Why is he even on the team?

Must Kobe bear the cross alone.............and the whole team go free?

Posted by: pfunk36 | January 17, 2011 at 05:40 PM

Hey, pfunk36, now that you've seen why Kobe was guarding Westbrook, I would suggest you spend more time studying, watching actual gameplay and not criticizing another blogger for using his cerebral cortex better than yourself.

Unless that is, you're a hobbyist and you like eating crow.

Not trying to start a war. Just giving that same stupid sarcasm you threw at me.

I wouldn't call Pau soft. Not after the last 2 playoffs when he stood up to the Celtics and to Dwight Howard. But I do think Pau could be a little harder. I've commented many times how I feel that Pau has done himself a disservice by not being more committed to strength training.Pau is a very good of the NBA's best. But he could be even better.

Posted by: bronxlakerfan | January 18, 2011 at 08:21 AM

What's up bronx?

How's this for frontcourt depth at the 2012 olympic games for spain;

C Marc Gasol
PF Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka

Pretty formidable.

Hey man, I've got a question for you: excluding chips, Mvp's, etc. What NY lefty should be considered the NBA's best: LO or Mully?

The only reason I'm asking is for some reason, the last 2 seasons, Lamar has that wet stroke to his 3 pt shot like Mully had back in the day.

Kobe led the crew to a good victory yesterday. Artest did a superb job on Durant. Pau struggled early, but came on in the 2nd half. Fish was aggressive and shot well. I didn’t think anyone had a bad game except for Shannon. He tried to do too much and was out of control.

The Lakers are improving little by little. Hopefully yesterday’s game can be another “stepping stone”.

G. Love and Special Sauce – Stepping Stone

One thing that I'm really glad about from last night's game is how Kobe played. The Mamba stuck to the game plan offensively and continued to facilitate. He resisted the temptation of matching Westbrook shot for shot and forcing the issue. The end result proves he did the right thing.

Pau had too many rebounds slapped or raked out of his hands. .

Posted by: bronxlakerfan | January 18, 2011 at 08:21 AM

Westbrook does a great job of stripping bigs when they come down for rebounds. He's relentless in his pursuit. He got Pau 2-3 times and Drew once. Pau definitely needs to point those elbows when he secures the rebounds.

"He resisted the temptation of matching Westbrook shot for shot and forcing the issue. The end result proves he did the right thing. "

Bronx- I'll give you that. When the Lakers and OKC were swapping shots in the 4th it was 3 or 4 Lakers putting it in vs Durant and Westbrook. That was a big part of the entertainment factor last night.


@ sean....

LO or Mully? That's a tough one. Mullins was such a great shooter and foul shooter, while Lamar has really just become a reliable 3 point shooter in the last 2 or 3 years as you stated. But, Lamar can arguably play any of the 5 positions on the floor. Chris averaged close to 26 points during the best 5 years of his career with Golden State but those stats may be skewed by the Don Nelson factor. Those GSW teams played uptempo with little defense.

Lamar would be my choice if I could have either player in his prime. He is such a versatile player who also has Mullin beat defensively and as a rebounder IMO. But I wouldn't be mad if you stuck me with Mully!

The only Laker player that's upped his game this season is LO. Up till now, that's not a formula for 3 peat.

Pau, Ron, Fish and Kobe have all dropped off enough to be at the tipping point of some frustrating losses. Yesterday, with the exception of Pau, they reverted to form in a statement game. That's good.

Even the most loyal Lakerholic had to admit in the aftermath of losses to Miami, Clippers, and San Antonio etc., games that were on their radar, that they couldn't crank it up to last year's efficiency.

On a back to back, this made me sleep easier.

Bronx - wouldn't you like to be able to inject a Mullen work ethic into an entire team though?


I'm thinking our bigs need to play tougher. Drew isn't the sharpest tool in the shed...lots of ticky tack soft fouls. Either Pau or Drew should have given a HARD foul on Westbrook early on. If you are going to pick up early fouls at least get your money's worth and let Westy know there is a price to pay if you come down the middle. Where is Ricky? His boy Pau is playing like a girly man. He needs to throw a few elbows & give some hard fouls to let the opposition know he can't be pushed around...just play harder so you get some respect. Good on Fish and Ron (I like him posting up and muscling his way to the hoop). Ron's d was great but having his man have to account for him huge. Not a thing of beauty but a good solid win against a quality team.

Jolly Rancher...

It seemed like part of the Lakers' gameplan was to limit the OKC players other than Durant and Westbrook. They suceeded with that. Ibaka was the only other Thunder player in double figures.


Pau could surely benefit from a well placed elbow or two. But it seems like he's too nice of a guy, sometimes! jk!

Jolly Rancher....good point about Mullins. Yes, I would.


LOL! Nothing wrong with a good, hard foul!





Posted by: Don't Blame Del Harris! | January 18, 2011 at 09:40 AM

"When God, was carving out Basketball players, he looked at Chris Mullin and said, this is a player."- Magic Johnson

Chris Mullin, had probably, excluding MJ's peformance in the 91' finals, the greatest game against the Lakers at the GWF in 1991 in the playoffs. He scored 41 points, went 16/21 from the field, variety of shots. Tremendous shooter, underrated defender.

@27 Bloggers - 3-4 of those 32 non basketball posts were you complaining about the blog...

@LRob - These are 3 of the top 10 Movie Songs...Name the movie that goes with the song...


@63 - Now that is a pretty easy one...coming from my warped

@Mamba24 - It won't be the same without you my good brother...but enjoy your vacation...and we will wait for your return, like the Philippines waited for MacArthur...Go Bears!!! I will be rooting for you...

@bronx - Thanks for having Pau's back...Another player that constantly gets viciously hammered here...

@LAT Blog - Great Win last night...I hate to admit it...but this team does have a "SWITCH"...(now this can be considered a BB post)

Lakers Dynasty - The Next Generation...

#17 Coming Up!!!

The screen caps for your videos are always hilarious.

D Fish haters where you at now?

Posted by: Diandra

Diandra great game by Fish. On that performance alone he should be starting in the All Star game.



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