GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Oklahoma City Thunder 28 27 20 19 94
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 28 30 23 20 101


Kobe and Lakers hold off Westbrook, Thunder 101-94

By GREG BEACHAM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Pau Gasol scored 21 points, Kobe Bryant had 21 and also missed three last-minute free throws, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-94 Monday night for their eighth win in nine games.

Lamar Odom had 16 points and Derek Fisher scored a season-high 15 for the Lakers in the clubs' first meeting since the Los Angeles sent home the eighth-seeded Thunder from the first round of last season's playoffs in a highly competitive six-game series.

Russell Westbrook had 32 points and 12 assists, and he led a late run aided by those three straight misses by Bryant. But Westbrook missed two free throws of his own with 21.4 seconds left before airballing a 3-point attempt.

NBA scoring-leader Kevin Durant had 24 points on 8-of-24 shooting for the Thunder, whose four-game winning streak ended. The Thunder were undone by 2-for-22 shooting from the 3-point line, including a 1-for-8 effort by Durant, who missed 14 of his last 18 shots overall.

One day after the Lakers wilted in the fourth quarter of a streak-snapping loss to the Clippers, Los Angeles hit more big shots down the stretch than Oklahoma City, which had won 13 of 18 and had the previous three days off.

Although Oklahoma City's outstanding season makes another first-round playoff series highly unlikely, the teams easily could meet for bigger stakes. They have the makings of a lively rivalry, with Bryant and Durant trading artistic baskets while the Lakers' half-court offense clashes intriguingly with the Thunder's up-tempo attack.

Los Angeles scored 14 straight points in the third quarter and took a 76-61 lead by grinding the game into a half-court contest, but the Thunder rediscovered their transition game and made a 14-2 rally late in the period to pull within 81-75 heading to the fourth.

Gasol scored back-to-back baskets to put the Lakers up 98-88 with 3:47 to play.

The Lakers are near the close of a brutal stretch with 15 games in 25 days, but the week only gets tougher with visits to Dallas on Wednesday and Denver on Friday before their first consecutive days off since immediately after Christmas.

Durant came out firing against the Lakers, scoring 14 of the Thunder's 28 points in the first quarter. Los Angeles stayed in it early with low-post baskets from Bynum and Gasol, who combined for 14 first-quarter points.

Westbrook had 18 points in the first half, but the Lakers led 58-55 with four scorers in double figures.

NOTES: Before the game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson confirmed Ron Artest's technical foul and ejection from Sunday's loss to the Clippers have been rescinded by the NBA. Artest won't be fined $4,000. Artest didn't appear to do anything wrong in the late-game scuffle featuring Odom, Baron Davis and Blake Griffin, whose technical and ejection also were rescinded, according to the Clippers. ... The clubs meet two more times this season. ... Fans near courtside included Denzel Washington, Glenn Frey and director Peter Berg.


Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited



50 Percent shooting for the Lakers, who executed quite well throughout the contest. Kobe Bryant made 7-for-12, Andrew Bynum 5-for-8 and Lamar Odom 6-for-9 to lead the way from an efficiency standpoint.

33.3 Kevin Durant's shooting percentage, thanks largely to the defense of Ron Artest, on an 8-for-24 shooting night, Durant needing seven free throws to get to his 24 points. Artest similarly held Durant well below his usual percentage throughout the first round of the playoffs last season.

16 Fast break points for the Thunder, eight coming in each half, which is an acceptable if not ideal number for the Lakers to concede to perhaps the league's most athletic team. Much of L.A.'s game plan against OKC is to execute in the half court and limit transition opportunities, which happened

15 Season high in points for Derek Fisher, who scored five straight early in the third to give the Lakers some breathing room. Fisher had struggled from the field coming into the game (3-for-18 in his last three games), but made five of his first eight shots, including two three-pointers.

0 Second half points for Andrew Bynum, after he scored six in the opening few minutes of the game, due to foul trouble.




View More Photos


Points Bryant, Gasol 21
Rebounds Bynum 3 OFF 7 DEF 10
Assists Bryant 7
Steals Fisher 2
Blocks Gasol 3

POSTGAME QUOTES

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the play of Lakers' bench:
"I told our bench crew that they did a great job of coming our there in the 4th quarter and giving us five or six minutes of play and came off the court with a six or seven point lead. They were able to hand it back to the starters and give them the rest they need to sustain the effort."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the team's performance tonight vs. yesterday:
"There are a number of things that we did better -- we shot the ball obviously at 50%, shot our three pointers a little better than we have so those things are conducive. I thought our defense gave up some but we kept them under a hundred points which is important."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Derek Fishers' activity tonight:
"Did I see that was his season high? That says something right there. Besides that I thought his defense was really good."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the Lakers' defense on the NBA's scoring leader Kevin Durant:
"That's a good job defensively -- he averages 28 or whatever. That's a good job to keep him under his average."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on beating the Northwest Division leading Thunder:
"It's a good win for us. We've been playing better. We know that we've got a ways to improve, things to do, but our intensity is right on a back-to-back night. We had the energy necessary to win against a very young, active team."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant's role in tonight's victory:
"I thought there was a couple of times that he had shots to take and he made the passes, but I thought he got the right guys going...I liked that activity and he got his own space in the game later on."



Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on what he was telling his teammates on the offensive end tonight:
"You have to take what the defense gives you. If you have opportunities, you have to shoot them. You can't think about the possession or what's next. You got a shot, you just have to take it."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on being able to hold onto the lead late in the game:
"Just making big plays. You have to make big plays. This team that we played tonight is very aggressive going to the rim. So we tried to challenge at the rim and make those shots at the basket contested ones, and get out in transition and try to get some easy ones ourselves."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on the Thunder seemingly stepping it up against the Lakers:
"This is a fun place to play, especially with a nationally televised game and with the playoffs, the battle that we had last year. I'm sure they got up for this game a little bit more than the others."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on if he sees specific improvements that the Thunder has made:
"They seem to know their roles. Not that they didn't last year, but I just think going through a year and going through a playoff series, and watching those roles develop, you have an offseason and you come into this season knowing exactly what you need to do."





Lakers' center Andrew Bynum on being able to close out tonight's game:
"We kind of held the rest of their team down. Obviously, [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook got off but they're the go-to guys. We did a good job on the rest of the team."






Lakers' forward Pau Gasol on his point total tonight:
"I had to work hard for it. They're a very good team, an attack mode team, and they put it in our heels a couple times. But we were able to figure things out and stop them enough times to win the ballgame."

Lakers' forward Pau Gasol on bouncing back after last night's game vs. the Clippers:
"It's important to bounce back…we were able to do it tonight. It was our third game in four nights, but we had enough energy, enough legs to compete well and beat a really good Oklahoma team."

Lakers' forward Pau Gasol on his team high level of focus against the Thunder:
"You need to really be on top of your game and really focused and in tune on what you need to do against this team and understand who you're playing against."






Lakers' forward Lamar Odom on his team's ball movement tonight:
"We moved the ball, and that's what happens when you play good team defense. The energy, the flow of the game, it seems like everyone gets involved. We need to play that kind of basketball."







Thunder Coach Scott Brooks on being hurt by missing three-pointers:
"Yeah, we didn't shoot the ball well from the three- point line, 2 for 22. It's not the percentage that you want going into a game, but I thought they played good basketball. They a good job of moving the ball and scoring around the basket. We just have to keep getting better. We're a team that should keep improving, and we will improve, but tonight we had some stretches of game that were good, but we didn't have 48 minutes."

Thunder Coach Scott Brooks on having 3 players in double digits compared to the Lakers 5:

"We didn't play well offensively, but a lot to do with that was the Lakers. They're good, they're a good defensive team, they've got length, they protect the basket very well, they've got some good wing defender in Artest. We didn't do a good job moving the ball, and we were not cutting hard with a lot of energy cuts, but a lot to do with it was the Lakers. You know, they're the best team in basketball."

Thunder Coach Scott Brooks on their second half:

"We didn't do a good job of moving the basketball. We were playing too much isolation basketball, and that hurt us. That's something we have to continue to work on, and continue to get better, and learn from it. The Lakers make you do things that you don't want to do and that's what makes them a good team. Defensively, they've got a ton of big guys inside, and Artest is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league."

Thunder Coach Scott Brooks on not being able to come back in the final minutes:
"We had a couple of opportunities we didn't execute offensively. I thought that stretch we could've made the game a little closer, and then the three by Steve Blake in the corner was a huge three. It's something we've got to continue to get better and keep working at, and keep learning from our experiences."

Thunder Coach Scott Brooks on Russell Westbrook's performance:
"Russell's improving every day. He's a worker, he's a great kid, he's coachable, he's a great teammate, just his game is involving. We don't know how far, how much improvement he will get, but I know he will improve every day cause he works hard every day he's in practice, getting after it. But he's a terrific player."







Thunders' Russell Westbrook on how good he thinks his team is right now:

"We're a good team, we just got room for improvement just like any other team in this league. And we got to be ready to play."

Thunders' Russell Westbrook on his improvement with his game:

"I'm just trying to be able to get my teammates involved, and if I see an opening, try to attack; that's what I tried to do tonight. Unfortunately we came up short."

Thunders' Russell Westbrook on their performance in the fourth quarter and what cost the game:

"It wasn't anything in the fourth quarter, it's a process throughout the whole game. Just getting the extra shots and the offensive rebounding; that was the key for the game."




Thunders' Kevin Durant on the game tonight:
"We had some good opportunities…we fought hard, we played hard, we just didn't close the game up."

Thunder's Kevin Durant on why it's such a challenge for his team to beat the Lakers at Staples Center:
"I wish I could tell you. They're a tough team, like every team in this league is. The fans bring them so much energy. I think we got some great looks, but we couldn't finish it tonight, but we got to continue to keep working."

Thunders' Kevin Durant on if he feels he has a better understanding of how to beat the Lakers now compared to last year:
"I think because we are maturing, we're getting older, and growing up as a team. We know what it takes to win. We just got to continue to keep plugging away, keep fighting everyday and we'll be okay."








LAKERS VS. THUNDER GAME PREVIEW

By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior Writer

When Los Angeles and Oklahoma City met in last season's playoffs, the top-seeded Lakers eliminated the young Thunder in a competitive first-round series.

A first-round postseason matchup this spring seems highly unlikely with a vastly improved Oklahoma City team in a tight race with Los Angeles for second place in the Western Conference.

In their first meeting since last season's playoffs, the Thunder try to win their fifth in a row Monday night when they visit the Lakers, who look to continue their dominance in this series at Staples Center.

Oklahoma City (27-13) was making its first playoff appearance since 2005 last season, and wasn't expected to give the defending champions much of a test. The Thunder entered the postseason having lost 12 of 13 to the Lakers, before nearly pushing the series to seven games.

Oklahoma City's upset bid ended when Pau Gasol came up with a last-second tip-in in Game 6 that allowed the Lakers (30-12) to advance. Gasol averaged 18.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in that series before Los Angeles went on to win a second straight title.

Less than 24 hours after Oklahoma City was eliminated by the Lakers, Kevin Durant said he was focused on winning a championship of his own.

Although the Thunder are just two years removed from a 23-win season, they look like they have what it takes to make a title run.

Oklahoma City has won four straight and 13 of 18, and is two games behind the Lakers for second place in the West.

The Thunder should be well-rested having been off since beating Orlando 125-124 on Thursday to improve to 7-0 on national TV. This will be another nationally televised game.

"Everybody gets up, I guess, for playing on TV. It's always fun," said Durant, who is averaging 32.8 points on national TV this season - 4.5 points higher than his NBA-leading average. "We only had two or three last year, so to have as many as we have now is a blessing and we just try to have a good showing."

Durant, averaging 35.3 points in his last three games, is looking to put a tough playoff series against the Lakers behind him, when he averaged 25.0 points on 35.0 percent shooting.

Durant, however, doesn't have to carry the entire offense by himself.

Russell Westbrook had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds against the Magic, as the Thunder improved to 11-1 when their point guard scores at least 25 points. Westbrook topped the 25-point mark just once in last season's playoffs against Los Angeles.

Although the Thunder played the Lakers tough in the postseason, they lost all three meetings in Los Angeles.

The Oklahoma City franchise has lost 10 straight at Staples Center to the Lakers - which includes the postseason - since the Seattle SuperSonics won 123-113 on March 12, 2006.

Los Angeles enters this game riding a five-game home winning streak, although it lost at Staples Center 99-92 to the host Clippers on Sunday. Kobe Bryant had 27 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end.

"We just didn't put up much of a fight," said Bryant, who averaged 23.5 points against the Thunder in last season's playoffs.

The Lakers have held seven of their last eight opponents to fewer than 100 points, but limiting Oklahoma City to double digits won't be easy.

The Thunder are averaging 117.3 points on 51.7 percent shooting in their last three games after averaging 92.7 points in their previous three.

"The shots are falling for us now," Oklahoma City forward Jeff Green said. "We're starting to connect on a lot of opportunities that we have."


Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited



Lakers

Matt Barnes (right knee surgery) is out.
Lamar Odom (sore left shoulder) is probable.
Theo Ratliff (left knee surgery) is out.


None.


01/17 - OKC @ LAL
02/27 - LAL @ OKC
04/10 - OKC @ LAL


The Thunder bring a 27-13 record into tonight's game, riding a four game winning streak and haven't played since beating Orlando last Thursday night. We will have our hands full trying to slow down their offensive thrust. This is a young, athletic team and they will look to attack and push the tempo. We must play without fouling. OKC is the number one team in the NBA in free throws attempted, made, and percentage. Defensively, their stats aren't as good as last year but some of that can be attributed to the fact that they are playing at a faster pace than last year and their offensive numbers are improved. Durant and Westbrook are the highest scoring duo in the league and they will do most of the scoring and playmaking. We must not allow them to have a third scorer impact the game. Another key will be in the battle of the benches. Maynor, Harden, Ibaka and Collison provide the depth necessary to compete at the highest levels.

Read Full Scouting Report @ Lakers Courtside Connection


GAME NOTES

SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers took last season's series from Oklahoma City 3-1 after sweeping both the 2008-09 (3-0) and 2007-08 (4-0) season series with the Thunder and have now won the last five consecutive season series. Meeting last year in the First Round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers advanced past the Thunder in six games (4-2) and improved to 6-2 in postseason series against the franchise. The two teams have met 218 times in the regular season but just seven times since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-09 season. Los Angeles leads the all-time series 134-84. In their most recent regular season meeting, the Lakers lost to the Thunder 75-91 at the Ford Center, snapping their 12-game win streak over the Thunder and marking their first loss to Oklahoma City since the team's relocation from Seattle. The Lakers are 13-2 in their last 15 games against Oklahoma City and have won 12 of their last 13 against the Thunder overall. On the road against the Thunder, the Lakers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 overall. The Lakers have now played six times during the regular season at Ford Center in Oklahoma City, going 0-2 against the New Orleans Hornets while the team was temporarily relocated from 2005-07 but 3-1 against the Thunder. At home, the Lakers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games against the Thunder and are 14-8 all-time against Oklahoma City at STAPLES Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-12 against the Thunder. In 2006-07, Kobe Bryant established a Lakers series record with 46 points 4/6/07 at KeyArena only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points 4/15/07 at home against the then Sonics. In those games, he surpassed the old mark of 45 points established by himself in January of 2003 and Jerry West in December of 1970. In 50 career games including 43 starts, Bryant is averaging 25.1 points against the Thunder

30 WINS AT THE MID-POINT
With a 100-88 victory over the New Jersey Nets on January 14th, the Lakers improved to 30-11 on the season, marking the third consecutive year that they have reached the mid-point of their season with 30 or more wins. Last season, the Lakers held a 32-9 record at the halfway point after starting the 2008-09 with a 33-8 mark. Over the past 10 seasons, the Sacramento Kings from 2001-04 are the only other NBA team to hit the mid-point with at least 30 wins in three consecutive seasons. Since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule prior to the 1967-68 season, the Lakers have now posted at least 30 wins by the mid-point 14 times, having also put together one additional three season streak from 1985-88.*

BACK-TO-BACK
Monday's game against Oklahoma City is the second of a back-to-back set with the Clippers and Thunder. This season, the Lakers are 6-3 in the first game and 7-1 in the second of back-to-backs. On the year, the Lakers will play 15 sets of back-to-back games as opposed to the 20 they faced a season ago. The only other time the Lakers have played 15 or fewer sets of back-to-backs came in the team's first ever NBA season (1948-49) when they also played 15 sets of back-to-backs. Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2010-11 while Oklahoma City (17), Phoenix (16) and the Lakers (15) will play the fewest sets this season.

A FOURTH QUARTER FIRST
Trailing by six entering the fourth quarter of their January 12th contest with Golden State, the Lakers outscored the Warriors 46-35 en route to a 115-110 victory at ORACLE Arena. The 46-point total marked the first time in franchise history (shot clock era) that the Lakers have scored 46 or more points in the fourth quarter of a road game. The last time the Lakers scored 46 or more points in any quarter on the road was on November 26, 1966 at St. Louis (48 points, first quarter). Overall, it was the Lakers highest scoring quarter since posting 46 points in the fourth quarter of a 127-99 victory 11/29/07 vs. Denver.

KOBE BRYANT LEADS ALL PLAYERS AFTER 4th ROUND OF ALL-STAR BALLOTING
On January 13th, the NBA announced its FOURTH and final returns update of 2011 NBA All-Star balloting before the official starting lineup announcement January 27th live at 7:00 pm EST on TNT. Kobe Bryant (1,757,216) continues to LEAD all players in All-Star voting, ahead of Dwight Howard (1,537,619) and LeBron James (1,518,807). Pau Gasol (851,456), who made his third All-Star team last season as a reserve, ranks 3rd among forwards in the West behind Kevin Durant (1,270,729) and Carmelo Anthony (945,720). Andrew Bynum (660,576) ranks 2nd among West centers behind Yao Ming (928,928), while Chris Paul (949,049) ranks 2nd among West guards behind Bryant. In the East, James and Amar'e Stoudemire (1,143,391) lead the forward voting, Dwyane Wade (1,499,768) and Derrick Rose (1,225,575) are the top two vote-getters at guard and Howard leads all East centers in balloting.

In each of the last three seasons, Bryant has led the Western Conference in all-star balloting. Last season, Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland's LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, he accumulated 2,805,397 votes, finishing third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). In 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991). In 2006-07, when he earned his second All-Star MVP, Bryant finished third overall in balloting behind James and Yao Ming. A three-time All-Star MVP (2002 Philadelphia, 2007 Las Vegas, 2009 Phoenix), Bryant is a 12-time All-Star and had started 11 consecutive All-Star games before missing last year's contest due to a sprained left ankle. Bryant, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, led all players in NBA All-Star balloting in 2003. Gasol has made three All-Star appearances (2006, 2009, 2010) and in 2009, became the 27th Laker in franchise history to be named to an All-Star team.

WIRE-TO-WIRE
With their record setting 112-57 victory vs. Cleveland on January 11th, the Lakers recorded their league-leading SEVENTH wire-to-wire win of the season. Getting to seven wire-to-wire victories in just 39 games matches the Lakers regular season total from all of last season. This season, the Lakers lead the Celtics (6), Spurs (5), Hawks (4) and Bucks (4) in wire-to-wire victories through games played 1/16/11. The Lakers other wire-to-wire victories this season came against the Warriors (10/31 vs. GS, 11/21 vs. GS), Grizzlies (11/2 vs. MEM), Wizards (12/7 vs. WAS), Pacers (12/15 @ IND) and 76ers (12/31 vs. PHI). Last year, the Lakers claimed NINE wire-to-wire victories (games in which they never trailed); seven during the regular season and two during the 2010 Playoffs (4/18 & 4/27 vs. Oklahoma City). During their previous championship run in 2008-09, the Lakers claimed 11 wire-to-wire victories; nine during the regular season and two during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah & 5/17 vs. Houston). Last season, the Lakers also lost twice in wire-to-wire fashion (98-107 1/8/10 @ POR and 75-91 3/26/10 @ OKC).

FISHER NAMED 2010 "SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR" BY LOS ANGELES SPORTS COUNCIL
On January 6th, the Los Angeles Sports Council announced that Lakers guard Derek Fisher will receive the prestigious 2010 Sportsman of the Year award at the 6th annual LA Sports Awards to be held Thursday, February 24th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The LA Sports Awards are presented annually by the Los Angeles Sports Council to celebrate the greatest moments of the year in local sports. The Sportsman award is given to the local male athlete whose performance and character best exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship during the calendar year. Past Sportsman of the Year honorees include Matt Leinart (2005), Elton Brand (2006), David Beckam (2007), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Pau Gasol (2009). The awards show will be televised on FS Prime Ticket (initial airing will be February 25th).






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