Lou Williams vs. Oklahoma City
Lou Williams lets go of a layup against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 8, 2016.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Williams Unleashes Monster Performance in Loss to OKC

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

The hottest stretch of Lou Williams’ career began with a blunder. Shortly after checking into the fourth quarter, the 11-year veteran coughed up a turnover, which led to an Oklahoma City score that increased the Lakers’ deficit to 11.

From there, the basket may as well have been as wide as Staples Center itself.

He hit five straight shots, scoring Los Angeles’ next dozen points, as the home team suddenly had a three-point lead over the team that thrashed them by a combined 78 points in their first two meetings.

However, in spite of Williams’ herculean 23-point fourth quarter, the Lakers were unable to close against the Thunder, who pulled out a 117-113 win in the final minute.

“He got in a great groove,” Kobe Bryant said. “His pull-up jumper started working, and he started getting to the basket and drawing contact. He just got in a fantastic rhythm.”

Despite their recent lopsided results against the Thunder (26-11), the Lakers hung around for nearly the entire contest.

“They embarrassed us the first two games, and if you’re a competitive person you come into a game and try not to have that feeling again with the same group of guys,” said Williams, who poured in a career-high 44 points.

“You don’t want a team going around the league just thinking they can beat you by 30, 40 points every time that you play them.”

After Williams flipped Oklahoma City’s double-digit lead into a 104-101 L.A. advantage with four minutes left, the teams traded more swings.

Behind Russell Westbrook’s 15 fourth-quarter points, the visitors were able to push their edge to four before Jordan Clarkson sunk a 3-pointer with 18.1 seconds remaining.

After Westbrook went 1-of-2 at the foul line, head coach Byron Scott drew up a play that gave inbounder Anthony Brown the option to pass to either Williams or Bryant.

Brown gave it to Bryant, who was unable to shake off tight defense — and some contact which wasn’t whistled — from Kevin Durant and missed the tying layup in the final seconds.

“Big stop by (Durant),” said Westbrook, who finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. “He had been doing a great job all game (and) all season. Just another big stop that he made tonight.”

Despite not getting the ball for the final shot, Williams’ night was special on both individual and franchise levels. His scoring total was the most by a Laker other than Bryant since Shaquille O’Neal had 48 on March 21, 2003.

“I was proud of the way we played and the way I played,” Williams said. “Obviously this game is measured by wins and losses, not personal accomplishments. … For us to be a young team and for me to play the way I did, we take some positives out of that.”

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year shot 12-of-25 on the night, including five 3-pointers, plus a 15-of-15 clip at the free throw line. He was the only weapon needed for the Lakers (8-30) in the fourth quarter, as his teammates combined for only five points.

“He kept us in the game and he was on fire,” Scott said. “The guys did a really good job of setting screens for him where he could get to the sweet spot.”

Lou Williams decided it was a good night to drop a career-high 44 points. #NBAVote

A photo posted by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

KB vs. KD
Though he wasn’t able to force overtime, Bryant nonetheless had a solid game, scoring 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting, including a coast-to-coast layup after bowling over official Bennie Adams.

He and Durant went at each other on both ends of the floor, as the Thunder superstar countered with 24 points on a 10-of-15 mark.

However, Bryant also pulled a move straight from a park pickup game against his fellow scoring champion.

Bryant handed out a team-high six assists — the most notable of which came in the first quarter when he bounced the ball through Durant’s legs to Roy Hibbert for a mid-range bucket.

“That’s just soccer stuff,” said Bryant, who grew up with the sport in Italy. “In basketball you get oohs and ahhs, but on the pitch (if) that’s what you have, that’s what you take. … (Durant) kind of looked at me, and I was like, ‘Dude, that was the pass to make.’”

Russell Hampered by Ankle
D’Angelo Russell sprained his ankle the night before in Sacramento, but he still decided to give it a try on Friday. However, the rookie lasted only eight minutes before needing to come out of the game due to the ailment.

“He gave it a go, which I was proud of him for doing,” Scott said. “He tried to plant and close out on a guy and he really felt it.”

Russell’s status for the near future is uncertain. He finished with two points (1-of-3) and two assists.

Notes
Williams’ perfect free throw mark was the best by a Laker since Bryant went 18-of-18 on April 10, 2013. … Jordan Clarkson had 17 points, including a buzzer-beater off the glass from halfcourt at the end of the first. … A crowd of 18,997 sold out Staples Center.

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