Lakers Hold Off Thunder for Fifth Straight Win

Lakers Hold Off Thunder for Fifth Straight Win LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant scored
40 points for the sixth time this season, and the NBA-leading Los
Angeles Lakers shook off a rough first half before hanging on for their
16th victory in 17 games, 111-108 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on
Tuesday night.

Pau Gasol had 15 points and 11
rebounds for the road-weary Lakers, who needed two last-minute free
throws apiece from Bryant and Derek Fisher to win their first game back
from a five-game road trip.

After trailing by 12 in the first
half, Los Angeles blew most of an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Baskets by Russell Westbrook and James Harden twice cut the Lakers’
lead to one in the final 25 seconds, but Bryant and Fisher sealed Los
Angeles’ 12th straight win over Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant scored 30 points before
fouling out with 1:31 to play, and former UCLA star Westbrook had 21
points and 13 assists for the Thunder, who dropped back below .500 with
their fifth loss in six games. Despite a strong start and finish at
Staples Center, the Thunder haven’t beaten the Lakers since they were
the Seattle SuperSonics.

Thabo Sefolosha scored 16 points for
the Thunder, but just three after halftime — and the guard missed an
open 3-point attempt to tie it in the final two minutes.

Fisher’s season high-tying 15 points
included two free throws with 14.9 seconds left, followed by a missed
3-point attempt by Westbrook.

Playing at home for the first time
since breaking his right index finger in a game against Minnesota,
Bryant had another injury scare when he landed awkwardly on his left
knee while putting up a backward layup with 5:08 to play. Bryant stayed
down on the court for several moments, but shot his own free throws
after a timeout — only to take an elbow to the jaw from Westbrook with
3:55 left.

Bryant persevered, drawing Durant’s
sixth foul before hitting two free throws with 19.5 seconds left in the
102nd 40-point game of his career.

The Lakers returned home after
winning the last four games of their first big road trip in a season
that began with 17 of their first 21 games at Staples Center. Los
Angeles has five more home games in the next two weeks, including a
Christmas meeting with Cleveland and a New Year’s Day visit from
Sacramento.

The Lakers very much resembled a
team returning from a long trip in the first half, falling behind by
double digits early in the second quarter with poor shooting and
indifferent play by Ron Artest, who missed a rebound layup attempt when
he inexplicably shot it flat-footed.

Durant and Westbrook led the Thunder
to a 61-54 halftime lead. Bryant scored 18 points in the first half,
but his fellow starters managed just eight field goals — including none
for Andrew Bynum, who went 0 for 5.

Los Angeles made a 13-4 run to open the third quarter, taking the lead on Fisher’s 3-pointer.

Notes
The Lakers have won seven
straight home games against Oklahoma City, and 11 straight home games
overall. … Westbrook got a technical foul in the third quarter for
throwing the ball at the basket standard in frustration. … Courtside
fans included actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, designer
Diane Von Furstenburg and husband Barry Diller, and figure skater
Michelle Kwan.

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