Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both realize they weren’t facing the Los Angeles Lakers who recently won an NBA title. They weren’t even facing the full talent of the Lakers’ current roster, which hasn’t been able to get much above .500 all season.
Running the Lakers out of their own building still feels pretty good, though.
Durant scored a season-high 42 points, Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder easily sent the short-handed Lakers to their sixth straight loss, 116-101 on Friday night.
Kevin Martin scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers for the Thunder, who romped to a 27-point lead in the second half. Oklahoma City has won seven of nine, while Los Angeles is on its first six-game skid since March 2007 while playing without injured stars Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Oklahoma City (28-8) matched the Clippers for the NBA’s best record — and the Thunder made it look easy with a virtuoso game from Durant, who had 38 points midway through the third quarter.
“Coming in here, it’s tough to win no matter what,” Durant insisted after the Thunder coasted down the stretch. “We did a great job of just playing together at both ends of the floor all night and not taking those guys lightly. They’ve got two of the best players in the world out, so we just wanted to come out and have a good game.”
They had a bit more than a good game. Durant hit four 3-pointers and his usual array of athletic shots whenever he wanted, while Westbrook finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double while playing less than 35 minutes.
The Thunder only had three scorers in double figures, but that was more than enough.
Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, has no sympathy for the Lakers.
“They’re not done. They have a lot more games left, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to find a way to get it together,” Westbrook said. “Our job is to worry about our team and our organization. It wasn’t easy. I just think we did a good job of playing team basketball defensively, and it showed. Kevin took control most of the game.”
Kobe Bryant scored 28 points and Antawn Jamison added 19 but Los Angeles looked lost and overmatched in its third straight game without Howard and Gasol.
The Thunder eliminated Bryant and the Lakers from last season’s playoffs in five games, but Los Angeles has shown few signs of being able to compete with the defending Western Conference champions this season. Injuries aren’t the only problem, but Howard likely is out for at least another week with a shoulder injury, while Gasol still hasn’t been cleared to return from his concussion.
“We’re just very frustrated and upset about what we’re going through right now, and how we’re playing,” Bryant said. “We’re going to have to make some big adjustments if we’re going to be successful. We gave up about 120 points tonight, and a lot of them were just layups and easy looks at the rim.”
Steve Nash had seven points and seven assists in a quiet 30 minutes for the Lakers, who announced during the second quarter that backup big man Jordan Hill likely needs season-ending surgery on his left hip. Metta World Peace added 12 points, going 1 for 9 on 3-point attempts.
“We showed some fight, but we just were a little overmatched,” Nash said. “They’re bigger than us at almost every position. Kevin got hot, and we couldn’t contain him in the second quarter. As the game wore on, I just think the difference in depth and quality took over.”
The Lakers (15-21) hadn’t lost this many consecutive games since the year before they acquired Gasol and embarked on a run to three straight NBA finals. With Cleveland and Milwaukee visiting over the next four days, the Lakers have a chance to get competitive again — but they’re facing an uphill climb just to get into playoff contention.
“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically. From there on, we can’t make any more false steps. That’s just how it is. We put ourselves in this ditch, and we’re the only ones that can get it out, and hopefully we can get some guys back and start our season Sunday.”
Durant scored 16 points in the second quarter, capped by a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left before halftime. Along with predictable defensive struggles against Durant and Westbrook, Los Angeles missed its first 12 3-point attempts before Nash connected midway through the third.