Thunder Drops Heartbreaker to Lakers

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:14 pm
By: News On 6

Originally Published: Feb 27, 2011 5:3 PM CDT

Corey DeMoss
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Thunder had two chances in the final ten seconds to tie the game, but both shots rimmed out in a 90-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday.

The Lakers (42-19) had a chance to put the game away with free throws in the closing seconds, but Lamar Odom missed two in a row to keep Oklahoma City in the game.

The Thunder (36-22) called a timeout to set up an inbound play, and Kevin Durant attempted a long, contested 3-pointer. That shot bounced out, but Nick Collison knocked the rebound out to James Harden for one final chance to tie the game. Harden’s heave also did not go as the buzzer sounded.

Oklahoma City led for much of the game, including by a game-high 14 at one point in the first half. It started the day on a 12-2 run, thanks in large part to back-to-back 3-pointers by Thabo Sefolosha. Russell Westbrook took over from there, scoring 17 points in the first half and leading the Thunder to a 56-51 halftime lead.

Both teams came out in the second half with a renewed focus on defense, and the Thunder suffered because of it. OKC had a rough third quarter, shooting just 5-of-18 and scoring 13 total points. That allowed the Lakers to take over the momentum, which they carried for the rest of the game.

Oklahoma City lost despite a stellar defensive effort against Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Sefolosha and Harden both played lock-down defense against Bryant, holding him to 8-of-22 shooting and 17 points, eight below his season average.

However, the Thunder’s problem with interior defense remained, and it was made worse by the absence of newly acquired centers Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed. Perkins was out with a sprained knee, while Mohammed was given more time to become acclimated with the Thunder’s system.

The lack of an OKC big man allowed the Lakers’ front line to have a field day. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum each recorded a double-double while combining to shoot 12-of-20. Gasol finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Bynum had 16 points and 10 rebounds

Westbrook only scored five points in the second half, but still finished with a game-high 22. Durant was not far behind with 21 points, and Harden added 14 off the bench.

The loss gives Oklahoma City three in a row for the first time this season, but it remains three games ahead of both the Portland Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets in the Northwest Division. The Thunder will remain in Oklahoma City for its next game against the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. Wednesday.