Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/12/13
LOS ANGELES -- There was a time when a 15-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers on their home floor was a cause for celebration. At least a smile or two. Not in the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room, though. Not with the Lakers just a shell of their former selves. Not with bigger fish to fry. These Thunder have their eyes on a grander prize. Oklahoma City built a 20-point lead early in the third quarter and the younger, faster Thunder sprinted away from the lackadaisical Los Angeles Lakers in a 116-101 win on Friday night at Staples Center. But as Kevin Durant points out, these are not the same Lakers. More importantly, these are not the same Thunder. "We're preparing for every game like it's our last," said Durant, whose squad advanced to the NBA Finals last season but lost to the Hear. "That's the approach we have here. We're just trying to get better every single day." Playing against a Los Angeles front court decimated by injury, the Thunder could've taken the day off. The Lakers just about did. Durant had 42 points, including 25 on 10 of 15 shooting in the first half. He added eight rebounds and five assists to lead Oklahoma City. Durant had 16 of his points in the second quarter, including a fadeaway deep 3-pointer as the first-half clock was about to expire, to lift the Thunder during a 33-17 run in which they seized control. "Kevin got hot and we made some good plays -- the 3 at the end of the half was good," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought we had a bad stretch of turning the ball over and not defending, but we took care of that in the second quarter. We kind of regrouped late in that second quarter, and we made some shots." Playing with a pulverized post absent of Dwight Howard (shoulder) and Pau Gasol (concussion), the Lakers had little answer for the Thunder. And the news got worse on Friday, as Los Angeles learned that center Jordan Hill would be lost for the season with a hip tear. Hill likely would not have made much difference against an Oklahoma City team that scored 64 first-half points, dealt 28 assists and maintained a 53-46 rebounding advantage in handling the Lakers their sixth straight loss. "We gave them a lot of easy opportunities; a lot of it was defensive lapses," Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant said. "I don't think it was a game where (Durant) was on fire -- I think we just gave him makeable shots. You give a guy who is that good at shooting the ball makeable shots, and he's gonna make them." Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists and seven rebounds to boost the Thunder effort. Kevin Martin added 15 points for Oklahoma City, which is battling the Lakers' Staples Center co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers, for the best record in the NBA. Both teams are at 28-8, though the Clippers did not play on Friday. Bryant had 28 points on 8 of 23 shooting to lead the Lakers (15-21), whose six-game slide is a season-worst in a year already marked by sloppy play. Los Angeles shot just 39.8 percent from the field, including 6 of 28 from 3-point range, and shot just 36 percent in the second quarter and 31 percent in the third. "I have been panicking," Lakers point guard Steve Nash said. "I guess I'm not panicking, but I'm well aware of the position we're in. We've got to get going fast. ... Or it will be too late." NOTES: Gasol was re-evaluated on Friday morning and was not cleared, and his status remains in doubt for the Lakers' matchup with Cleveland on Sunday. ... Howard (torn labrum) and point guard Steve Blake (abdominal surgery) remain out for Los Angeles. ... With the Lakers top post players out, World Peace has upped his scoring, going for 24 and 23 points, respectively, in Los Angeles' losses at Houston and San Antonio. ... After suffering two losses in all of December, the Thunder have lost twice in January in just six games. ... Oklahoma City won the first matchup of the two teams, 114-108, on Dec. 7, 2012, after a 41-point second quarter. ... Westbrook was averaging 21.8 points, 8.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds before Friday's game, and if those numbers hold up, he'll become just the fourth player in 20 years to join the 21-point, 8-assist, 5-rebound club, along with LeBron James, Chris Paul and Gary Payton.
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