They may not even be the best team in L.A. anymore, let alone the West, but the Lakers still have mystique on their side. The Thunder, however, have learned to ignore such considerations, and Loud City was happy to help sweep Kobe Bryant and friends off the premises, 100-85.
Dealing with Kobe is always a problem, and Scott Brooks chose to address it by having James Harden stick to him like Fifties cellophane; Bryant got his 24 points, but it took him 24 shots to get it. The tall guys — Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — were their usual efficient selves, though seldom at the same time. But the Lakers’ plight can be summed up in a single incident: inside the 2:00 mark, a brief altercation broke out, and noted pacifist Metta World Peace got T’d up.
Kevin Durant? Thirty-three points on 22 shots. And if Bynum got a double-double, which he did, well, so did Serge Ibaka, and Ibaka was +17 for the night, higher than anyone except KD. The Thunder had a small edge in rebounding (44-41), a bigger one in taking the ball away (nine blocks and seven steals, versus two and five), and perhaps the biggest in bench scoring (28-11; Harden had 16 all by his lonesome). Russell Westbrook, who you’ll remember is Not Really A Point Guard, had half a dozen dimes tonight, more than anyone else except, um, Kevin Durant.
But best of all, it was the Lakers. Everyone loves to beat the Lakers. They have tradition, they have history, and for the moment they have second place in the Pacific.
The All-Star break now ensues.