Lakers vs Thunder: Lakers get by Thunder
Lakers 101, Thunder 94 (final)
There is much respect between the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, much of it born out of the sWestern Conference playoff series the two teams played last year that Los Angeles won, four games to two.
So when the game was over Monday night, Kobe Bryant, who struggled at the free-throw line late, hugged Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who was as blur the Lakers had difficulty stopping, and forward Kevin Durant.
The Lakers had a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but it didn't last.
The Lakers had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and saw it sliced to 98-94 before holding on.
Bryant missed three consecutive free throws in the last 37.8 seconds, leaving the door open for the Thunder.
After Westbrook missed two free throws, Andrew Bynum couldn't get the rebound.
It meant Westbrook had another opportunity, but he shot an air ball from behind the three-point line.
Bryant then stepped to the free-throw line with 15.1 seconds left and calmly sank both free throws for a 101-94 lead.
Bryant finished with 21 points and seven assists.
Westbrook had 32 points and 12 assists while Durant had 24 points, but he was just eight-for-24 shooting from the field.
It was a tough night for Bynum.
Foul trouble kept doing him in yet again.
Bynum picked up his fifth foul with 10:07 left in the game and was forced to take a seat on the bench.
It gave the Lakers one less seven-footer they could go to in the game.
Lakers 81, Thunder 75 (end of third quarter)
A quick 14-0 run to start the third quarter helped the Lakers open a 15-point lead.
The Thunder closed to within 78-75 on a Russell Westbrook drive to the basket.
The Lakers' fans were not happy, booing their team.
But a Steve Blake three-pointer helped the Lakers restore some order heading into the fourth quarter.
Lakers 58, Thunder 55 (end of first half)
It took four Lakers scoring in double figures for them to hold off the Thunder heading into halftime.
Lamar Odom gave the Lakers a big lift off the bench in the seccond quarter, scoring 10 of his 12 points.
Andrew Bynum was having a strong game as well until getting into foul trouble. He picked up his third foul with 2:18 left in the half trying to stop Russell Westbrook on a drive.
Bynum had 10 points on five-for-seven shooting and four rebounds when he went to the bench.
Westbrook had 18 points in the first half.
Lakers 28, Thunder 28 (end of first quarter)
It ended up in a tie, despite the Lakers starting strong in the first quarter Monday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers went inside to Andrew Bynum, who had eight points on four-for-five shooting.
Kobe Bryant had four assists in the first quarter.
It went just as expected for the Thunder.
Kevin Durant had 14 points on four-for-six shooting and Russell Westbrook had eight points and four assists.
The Lakers know they will have their hands full against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers haven't played the Thunder since beating Oklahoma City in six tough games during the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last year.
If the Lakers use their size, it will help them against the Thunder.
The Lakers start seven-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol while the Thunder goes with seven-foot Nenad Kristic and 6-9 Jeff Green.
But the Thunder has a lot of speed the Lakers will have to contend with.
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest muscles his way between Thunder guard James Harden and forward Nick Collison in the first half Monday night at Staples Center. Collison was called for a foul on the play. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times