Quite simply, the best win of the season so far for the Lakers. Sure, they looked great against the Knicks, but this one came against a conference rival with something to prove after last year's playoffs and the defending champs out-executed Kevin Durant & Co.
The first half of the third quarter
One of the mantras that Phil Jackson tries to teach to his team year after year is recognizing when there is a crack in the back-and-forth flow of game and an opportunity to seize the momentum. L.A. turned a three-point lead at halftime to a 15-point cushion with an 18-6 run to start the second half. They did it with defense on one end, as Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher both had steals during the stretch while Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum plugged up down low, and 3-pointers on the other as Bryant, Fisher and Ron Artest all connected on triples.
Aside from a late third quarter turnover when Bryant threw it out of bounds to nobody when he anticipated Pau Gasol would roll to the basket, Bryant maintained a perfect mix of when to pass and when to shoot. Bryant had five assists in the game before he had five shot attempts. After Bryant had eight assists and just 10 shot attempts in L.A.'s 55-point rout of the Cavaliers last week, Jackson said he would like to see more of Bryant wearing his distributor hat. Of course, Bryant went on to score 39 in his next game against the Warriors, but Monday he helped keep the offense balanced. Bryant finished with seven assists and 18 points on 12 shot attempts, allowing for five Lakers to reach double-digit scoring. His biggest dime of the night came with 3:47 to go in the fourth quarter when he found Gasol for a jumper that put L.A. up 10 and caused the Thunder to call timeout. As Bryant made his way to the bench, he sought out Gasol to praise him for rewarding Bryant's faith in him. He shifted back to scoring mode late to put in the final free throws to cushion the lead.
This season's most-consistent Laker bounced back from Sunday's "punking" by Blake Griffin to turn in a steady 16-point, seven-rebound, two-assist performance. He went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers in the second quarter, giving the team a completely different dynamic with Bynum on the bench. He gladly banged with Serge Ibaka down low, stripping him for a steal at one point and also skying over him for a key fourth-quarter defensive rebound with the Lakers lead hanging precariously at 98-94.
Derek Fisher scored a season-high 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting and also broke up a Thunder fast break by taking a charge.
The second half of the third quarter
All that work to start the quarter was nearly completely erased by how they closed it as Oklahoma City was able to get back within three with 59.9 seconds left in the third following an unimpeded Russell Westbrook layup.
Turnovers and transition defense
It's what nearly killed L.A. in the playoffs against OKC and it came back to bite them at times, especially in the first quarter when the Lakers had four turnovers while the Thunder had eight fastbreak points. The third quarter was more of that as the Lakers had four more turnovers, leading to six more Thunder fastbreak points.
He shot just 3-for-9 and had two turnovers, one coming on a fastbreak that should have at least led to two free throws. Not to mention, he failed to close out hard enough on a James Harden 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter that cut the Lakers' lead to six when the Thunder were making a comeback.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.