Notebook: Lakers 105, Thunder 96

Posted Jan 27, 2013 7:53 PM

Dan Arritt, for

THE FACTS: The same Lakers took the floor Sunday afternoon against the visiting Thunder, the same team that managed just 17 victories in the first 42 games this season. But for the second straight game, L.A. carried a new attitude into Staples Center and Kobe Bryant brought a different strategy. The 17-year veteran continued his sudden metamorphosis from elite scorer to Steve Nash-like facilitator, a transformation that might be just what the Lakers needed the last three months. Bryant finished with 21 points and, for the second straight game, racked up a season-high 14 assists while coming up one rebound short of a triple-double. All those numbers factored into the 105-96 victory against the No. 1 team in the West, the most significant win of the season for the Lakers.

QUOTABLE: "Kobe starts it. Sharing the ball, he hasn't forced a shot. He's moving the ball. He's playing great defense. It starts with him, but then everybody else is contributing."

-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

THE STAT: Bryant recorded at least 14 assists in back to back games for first time since December 2002. He also finished with more assists than shot attempts (12) for just the fifth time in his career when playing at least 30 minutes and the first time in back-to-back games.

TURNING POINT: The Thunder took their final lead, 87-86, on a 3-pointer by Kevin Durant with 6:37 remaining in the game. Lakers forward Metta World Peace made a bank shot on the other end, just as teammate Dwight Howard was picking up his fifth foul while jockeying for rebounding position with Nick Collison. Howard went to the bench and in came Earl Clark, who scored off a pass from Bryant to push the lead to three. Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook then tried a baseline dunk but the ball sailed into the stands. He argued that he was fouled on the play by Pau Gasol, drawing a technical foul. Nash made the free throw and Bryant followed with a 22-footer on the ensuing possession to cap the 7-0 run and extend L.A.'s lead to 93-87 with 5:05 left. The Thunder never brought it back to a one-possession game.

HOT: Even though it's not his preference, Gasol continues to thrive in a reserve role. He came off the bench for the sixth straight game since returning from a five-game absence because of a concussion and finished with 16 points. He's scored in double figures every game since coming off the bench. About the only thing he didn't have going for him against the Thunder was his free-throw shooting. He shot 2-for-6 from the line.

QUOTABLE II: "Pau has been great and I think he feels good about what he has been doing."


NOT: Westbrook missed his first eight field-goal attempts and 12 of 13 before eventually finishing with 17 points on 6-for-22 shooting. Like Bryant, he also came up one rebound shot of a triple-double, finishing with 13 assists and nine rebounds. Howard would have felt the wrath had the Lakers not held on to win. He shot 2-for-10 from the free-throw line, including a stretch of six consecutive misses in the second quarter. He didn't help his cause by committing his third and fourth fouls on back-to-back possessions early in the third quarter and his fifth midway through the fourth. He finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

QUOTABLE III: "[Westbrook] didn't shoot the ball well, nor did [Kevin Durant], and they're going to make those shots."
-- Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks.

GOOD MOVE: Lakers coach D'Antoni assigned Bryant to guard Westbrook at the outset of the game and his experience alone appeared to be enough to throw Westbrook off his game.

BAD MOVE: Thunder backup guard Kevin Martin may have provided the perfect counterweight to Westbrook's off-night, but he committed his second and third fouls in the opening minute of the second quarter and went to the bench for the rest of the half. Still, the team's third-leading scorer was fresh and ready to close out the game, but Oklahoma City coach Brooks elected to sub him out for Thabo Sefolosha with 3:38 remaining and the Thunder trailing by six points. Oklahoma City made just one field goal the rest of the way.

NOTABLE: World Peace finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double since start of 2010-11 season. ... The Lakers are 13-3 this season when Bryant takes 19 field-goal attempts or less, 6-22 when he takes 20 or more. ... Durant finished with 35 points on 10-for-26 shooting but matched his season-low with just two rebounds. Durant and Bryant are tied for the league lead with 21 games of 30 or more points this season. ... The Thunder finished 3-3 on their season-long six-game road trip.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Tuesday vs. New Orleans, Wednesday @ Phoenix, Friday @ Minnesota. For the Thunder, Thursday vs. Memphis, Saturday @ Cleveland, Monday vs. Dallas.