OKLAHOMA CITY -- After a late-season stumble in Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant was left looking ahead to better days: namely, the playoffs.
Kevin Durant scored 26 points, Russell Westbrook added 23 and the Thunder snapped the Los Angeles Lakers' seven-game winning streak with a resounding 91-75 victory Friday on a turnover-filled night for Bryant.
Bryant turned it over eight times as Oklahoma City built a 19-point lead by halftime, then proceeded to hold the West-leading Lakers to their lowest-scoring output of the season.
"It's disappointing we didn't respond to the challenge," Bryant said. "That being said, when the playoffs start it's a different situation."
The Thunder could end up being the Lakers' first-round opponent, although the outcome was a step toward avoiding that scenario. Oklahoma City needed the win to remain alone in sixth place ahead of San Antonio, which beat Cleveland on Friday night. The Lakers are firmly entrenched in the top spot.
At this point, losses by any margin do little to damage the Lakers in the Western Conference standings, but hamper any chance of catching Cleveland for the best record in the NBA. Los Angeles is 5 1/2 games clear of second-place Denver in the West but 3 1/2 games behind the Cavaliers in the chase for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
"No matter who it was, it's a big victory for us," Thunder forward Jeff Green said. "We're playing for something and no matter who came in tonight, and we won, it's a big victory for us. ... We're trying to make a push, trying to get a good seed in the playoffs knowing teams are going to come in here and play us hard."
The Thunder finished the third quarter with a 16-2 run, capped by back-to-back two-handed dunks by Nick Collison and Durant. Oklahoma City took a 33-point lead into the fourth quarter, but coach Scott Brooks put Durant and Westbrook back in the game after Los Angeles scored 10 straight points to open the period.
The victory ranked as one of the most impressive for the Thunder in just under two seasons in Oklahoma City, along with a 102-74 win against Orlando -- the team the Lakers beat in last year's finals -- earlier this season.
"It feels good for us. It's another win for us and coming down the stretch, we need wins like this," Durant said.
Lamar Odom scored 15 points, and Bryant finished with 11 points and nine turnovers in three quarters. It took a late charge by the Lakers to ensure they wouldn't break the franchise's record for fewest points in the modern era (70).
"It was a tough game for us. I think we really don't have to make a huge deal about it," center Pau Gasol said. "We're able to bounce back tomorrow and put a good game together and move on. Not looking over the game but understanding that we just got outplayed tonight and we got beat by a team that is playing really well, especially here at home.
"We don't want to search too deep into it because there's nothing to search for."
The loss was the third-most lopsided of the season for the Lakers, behind only a 26-point loss at Denver and a 20-point defeat against San Antonio. Los Angeles shot 39 percent, made only two of 15 attempts from 3-point range and finished with a season-low seven assists to go with 18 turnovers.
"We actually had a practice yesterday that was about execution and they couldn't get it accomplished," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They had to do everything off the dribble instead of off the pass. That's one of the things we were really concerned about. This team attacks the dribblers really well."
Oklahoma City snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers, earning its first win in the series since Nov. 5, 2006, in Seattle. Two nights earlier, the Thunder snapped a 13-game skid against Houston that also dated to 2006.
"We want to play better. There's things that we have to do, that we have to shore up," Bryant said. "But I know what we can do. I know what our identity is. That's the part that you don't want to be second-guessing.
"We had beaten this team, what, 12 straight times? They came out hungry, they came out aggressive and executed extremely well and they won."
Oklahoma City led by 25 in the final 6 minutes when Green drove the lane in transition for a right-handed throwdown. Durant followed with a two-handed alley-oop jam on the Thunder's next possession, and Brooks then sent his reserves to the scorer's table to check in.
Westbrook had nine points as Oklahoma City built an early 19-7 lead, capitalizing on four turnovers by Bryant in the opening 7 minutes. And Bryant didn't fare much better after checking back in during the second quarter. He turned it over four more times and the Thunder closed the first half on an 11-4 run to go up 53-34 after Thabo Sefolosha's fast-break layup.
Bryant had to pick himself up off the floor after concluding the first half with one last turnover, with Westbrook ending up with the ball after a collision in the lane.
"You have situations and it doesn't matter what time of the season. You're going to just be down," Jackson said. "Kobe wasn't really himself tonight. ... I thought Pau was soft inside. He didn't take the shots I'd like to see him take. We were not alert in situations where we had opportunities and muffed them. We turned the ball over and they ran out."
"Those are tough things to overcome."
Jackson said he might be compelled to return for an 11th season in Los Angeles if the Lakers win their second straight title. "If we win, it's almost imperative that I give it another shot. But that's a lot of ifs in there," he said. "There's four playoffs that you have to get through before you can say that you won and we've got a chance to do something special again, unique again. So, that's a long shot." ... Bryant had a career-high 11 turnovers in a 90-89 loss at Detroit on Jan. 31, 2008. ... Among those seated courtside were Bob Stoops and Barry Switzer -- in seats occupied two nights earlier by Gov. Brad Henry and first lady Kim Henry -- plus NFL prospect Gerald McCoy and Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel. Former Oklahoma State basketball coach Eddie Sutton was also in attendance.
- Ron Garretson
- Phil Robinson
- Tony Brothers