In a game with nine lead changes and 11 ties, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to sneak by the Los Angeles Lakers in the STAPLES Center without their star player Kevin Durant.
Without Durant, it was of course Oklahoma City’s other superstar Russell Westbrook, who is having an MVP type season so far. He led the Thunder with 31 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds.
Ronnie Price ignited the Lakers to a quick start, as he scored all 14 of his points in the first period and helped the Lakers take a six-point lead to end the quarter. Kobe Bryant was held scoreless in the first quarter, as he hit his first field goal late in the second quarter.
Westbrook and the Thunder battled back in the second quarter and calmly took a two-point halftime lead.
The Thunder then started to impose their will on the Lakers in the third quarter. Led by Reggie Jackson, the Thunder opened up a nine-point lead to close the third.
At the 11:23 mark of the fourth quarter, Nick Young got into it with Steven Adams, who is really great at getting under people’s skin. He set a good, solid pick on Young who, out of frustration, shoved Adams and threw a couple of elbows. As a result, Young was hit with a flagrant-two foul and was ejected from the game.
Young’s ejection sparked the entire Lakers team, as they went on an 11-2 run to take a three-point lead midway through the fourth. The Lakers bench was energized, as Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, and Wayne Ellington led that charge. Ed Davis, who scored a season-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, was also terrific down the stretch, making all the hustle plays, while Jordan Hill was benched due to an upper respiratory infection.
Throughout the final five minutes of the game, both teams went back-and-forth, as there were seven lead changes. With 38 seconds remaining, Westbrook knocked down a 16-foot jumper to give the Thunder a three-point lead, but Jeremy Lin quickly answered with two of his own after a timeout, leaving 32 seconds on the clock with the Lakers down one.
The Thunder missed on the other end, and the Lakers corralled the rebound with a chance to win the game. At first, Byron Scott opted not to call a timeout, but Kobe was fouled by Westbrook with six seconds left, as the Thunder had a foul to give. Since there was a stoppage in play, Scott called a timeout to draw up a final play.
The Lakers, as expected, inbounded the ball to Kobe, who used a fake to get his defender in the air and pulled up for a 17-foot jumper but came up short. The Thunder escaped with a 104-103 victory.
Kobe had a poor game, going 3-of-15 from the field for only nine points, but he did have eight assists and eight rebounds. Boozer continued his fine play off the bench with 14 points and six rebounds, while Lin added 12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists on 5-of-7 shooting.
Reggie Jackson poured in 25 points off Oklahoma City’s bench on 9-of-15 shooting. The Thunder needed a big time performance from him, and he delivered. Serge Ibaka did not shoot the ball well but finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five blocks.
After the game, Nick Young talked about his ejection, and this is what he had to say. “Adams is a sneaky, dirty player. It's not my first rodeo with him.” Young finished the night with 10 points in 13 minutes.
The Lakers drop to 8-18 on the season, while the Thunder improves to 13-14, as they have won the last eight out of nine games. Oklahoma City continues to make a playoff push. They are now one game out of the eighth seed.
The Lakers are back on the road on Sunday, as they play host to the Sacramento Kings. The Thunder, meanwhile, will have an excellent chance to get a playoff spot in their next game, as they play the eighth seeded New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday as well.