Originally Published: Nov 3, 2009 10:2 PM CDT
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Oklahoma Sports Staff & AP Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma City Thunder gave the defending champions all they could handle for four quarters. However the Los Angeles Lakers had more in overtime as they squeak out a 101-98 win to hand the Thunder their second-straight loss.
Kobe Bryant connected on a turnaround jumper from the left side with 2:29 to play to give the defending NBA champions a 99-97 lead and then hit two free throws with 18 seconds remaining to push the lead to three.
The Thunder had two chances to tie it late, but Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook each missed 3-pointers surrounding a pair of missed free throws by Lamar Odom.
Bryant grabbed the ball after Westbrook's miss and tossed it toward the opposite end of the court to allow the final seconds to run off the clock.
Bryant had been fighting through flu-like symptoms earlier in the day but his fever went down before the game started. He ended with a game-high 31 points.
"I've been through a lot worse than this," Bryant said.
He felt fortunate that he was able to play, considering the concerns over swine flu, and expected to sleep and get fluids on the Lakers' trip to Houston for their first back-to-back of the season.
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 28 points but airballed a pair of shots that could have given the Thunder the lead in the closing minute of regulation and overtime. Durant did not score a point in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"We tell him he's going to be in that situation a lot, and every time you're in that situation, you learn from it," Thunder point guard Kevin Ollie said of Durant. "I think he's going to get better and better as we go on through this season, and he's going to have the opportunity once again. I think he's going to step up and knock down the shots and we're going to win games. We're going to ride it out with Kevin."
Andrew Bynum added 22 points, Ron Artest scored 20 and Odom had 13 points and eight rebounds while starting again in place of the injured Pau Gasol.
Jeff Green had 18 points for Oklahoma City while Westbrook and Sefolosha each scored 12.
Sefolosha hit a 3-pointer and a driving finger roll to eliminate a five-point deficit for the Thunder in the final 3 minutes of regulation and tie the game at 88.
"Going into overtime against a team like the Lakers is something that we say we can pride ourselves on," Sefolosha said. "Even though we lost, we had a lot of opportunities to win this game."
Bryant answered at the other end with a turnaround jumper over Sefolosha, but the Thunder got a chance to tie the game after Etan Thomas - playing instead of starting center Nenad Krstic - swatted Odom's floater with 1 minute to play.
Green's 12-foot jumper from the left wing tied it with 49.9 seconds left, and Bryant couldn't connect on a desperation 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to give Los Angeles a lead. Sefolosha tipped the ball away from Bryant, and he had to scramble to regain possession before shooting.
Durant then aired out the first of his two potential game-winners.
Los Angeles opened the game on a 9-0 run, punctuated by Bynum's two-handed jam off an alley-oop lob from Bryant. The lead reached 28-15 after Bryant finished a spurt of six straight points with a 3-pointer from the right wing over Durant.
But Durant scored 10 straight points, including a two-handed dunk of his own, in a stretch spanning the first quarter break to get the Thunder back in the game.
His two free throws put Oklahoma City ahead for the first time at 41-40, and teams traded 8-0 runs just before halftime to set up a closely-contested third quarter in which the teams traded the lead 13 times.
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