OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Kevin Durant scored 33 points, Russell Westbrookadded 19 and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 100-85 Thursday night to head into the All-Star break tied for the league’s best record.
The Thunder won their 12th straight home game and denied Los Angeles the chance to head into the midseason break with back-to-back statement wins on the road. The Lakers had won at defending NBA champion Dallas a night earlier and were trying to follow it by knocking off the other half of last year’s West finals.
Oklahoma City and Miami both have NBA-leading 27-7 records at the break.
The Thunder pulled away in the second half to win their second in a row against the Lakers, who won eight of the teams’ previous nine regular-season meetings and knocked Oklahoma City out of the 2010 playoffs in the first round.
The Lakers, once able to use their size advantage against Oklahoma City, struggled to get those same inside baskets against the remade Thunder interior of NBA blocks leader Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
Center Andrew Bynum started out 2 for 12 before finally hitting three in a row midway through the fourth quarter. His two-handed slam got the Lakers within 81-74 with 7 minutes remaining, only for Oklahoma City to come right back by scoring the next seven points.
Westbrook converted a three-point play, followed by James Harden‘s two-handed slam and a two-handed putback dunk by Perkins with 4:29 left.
Harden added a second-chance 3-pointer from the right wing off of Perkins’ offensive rebound with 2:10 left, leaping in celebration as he ran back on defense. Durant’s free throw after Metta World Peace‘s technical foul 17 seconds later gave the Thunder an insurmountable 95-81 advantage.
Ibaka added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which limited L.A. to 39 percent shooting while making 47 percent of its own shots.
The Thunder emerged ahead 46-43 after a closely contested first half, with Westbrook connecting on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 0.8 seconds left and Durant stealing Bynum’s inbounds pass along the left baseline before hitting a jumper before the buzzer.
Bynum and World Peace, his intended target, walked off the court discussing what went wrong.
The Lakers would never lead again.
Durant converted a three-point play and Daequan Cook hit a 3-pointer during a burst of eight straight points for Oklahoma City midway through the third quarter, and the lead stretched to 71-58 when Cook followed Harden’s slam by hitting a right wing jumper with 1:43 left in the period.
NOTES: After looking back at the video, Los Angeles coach Mike Brown said he thought a foul by Dallas’ Brendan Hawyood on Gasol in the final minute Wednesday should have been a flagrant foul. “I’m sure the league has seen it and I’m sure that they’ll take whatever action they think is necessary for it. That definitely was not just a normal foul or a regular foul,” Brown said. … Durant was a late addition to the 3-Point Contest at the All-Star game, giving him a chance at redemption after last year’s last-place effort in which he scored only six of a possible 30 points. “His last year’s performance was pathetic. … Right now, he needs coaching,” Brooks said. We need to bring back the H-O-R-S-E contest so he can bring something home.” Durant won the H-O-R-S-E contest in 2009 and 2010. … Perkins is just two technical fouls away from a one-game suspension, with 11 through 34 games. “It’s going to be very difficult for Perk to not engage in any physical play on the court that referees deem that’s a little excessive but he has to,” Brooks said.