By Eric Pincus
9:30 PM AKST, December 7, 2012
Thunder 114 - Lakers 108 (final)
The Lakers chased the Oklahoma City Thunder with a late rally but the Thunder held on to win, 114-108.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 36 points, making 10-19 shots from the field and 14-19 from the line. The real damage was done in the first half as Russell Westbrook dominated the game, finishing with 33 points and eight assists.
The Lakers were led by Kobe Bryant's 35 points. Dwight Howard had a double-double with 23 points and 18 rebounds, but the Lakers shot 42.9% from the field and turned the ball over 17 times.
The Thunder only won a single quarter, taking the second by a 15-point margin (41-26).
The Lakers, playing without Pau Gasol (knees) and Steve Nash (leg), got help from Jodie Meeks off the bench (17 points). Chris Duhon struggled to guard Westbrook, but provided an offensive spark later in the game with 14 points.
Howard had a strong free-throw shooting night, hitting 5-7. Bryant and Howard combined for 11 turnovers.
Kevin Martin, serving as James Harden's replacement, scored 11 points off the bench.
Thunder 89 - Lakers 75 (end of third quarter)
After taking a punch from the Thunder, the Lakers leveled off to close within 14 by the end of the third. Both teams scored 22 points in the period.
The Lakers have shot just 39.1% with 13 turnovers. The Thunder have hit 51.5% from the field and 60% from three-point range, led by 28 from Kevin Durant and 27 from Russell Westbrook.
Kobe Bryant's 26 points came on just 16 shots. Dwight Howard had 17 points and 14 rebounds but together the pair has nine turnovers.
Thunder 67 - Lakers 53 (halftime)
Russell Westbrook's first half left the Lakers puzzled and down 14 at the half. Westbrook hit 10 of 16 shots, including five made three-pointers, to score 27 in just 19 1/2 minutes. He also dished five assists without a turnover.
Dwight Howard's great start (12 points and 11 boards) was an afterthought as the Lakers gave up 41 points in the second quarter.
Kobe Bryant put in 15 on 4-9 shooting but the Lakers shot just 37.8% from the field. Strong free throw shooting (14-17) and rebounding (26 to Oklahoma City's 19) kept the Lakers close for much of the game.
The Thunder pulled away once the Lakers went to their bench. Oklahoma City also got 18 from Kevin Durant, and nine from Kevin Martin off the bench.
Jodie Meeks scored nine in almost 6 1/2 minutes.
Lakers 27 - Thunder 26 (end of first quarter)
Dwight Howard scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a strong opening quarter for the Lakers in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.
Withstanding a hot start from Russell Westbrook, who scored 13 points, the Lakers overcame an early-four point deficit to go up briefly by six.
The Lakers shot just 39.1% from the field but took nine free throws (making six). They also rebounded well with 18 overall (eight on the offensive glass).
The Thunder shot 41.7% but took just two free throw attempts and collected nine boards.
The Lakers have an opportunity to take out the reigning Western Conferenc champion Thunder (15-4) on Friday night in Oklahoma City. Given the Lakers' inconsistent play, a win over the team that knocked them out of last year's playoffs would be a major step forward.
Of course, it will be difficult with Steve Nash (leg) and Pau Gasol (knees) sitting out again.
The Thunder have evolved after trading James Harden, who was a very difficult player for the Lakers to handle. It will be interesting to see just how Oklahoma City fares with Kevin Martin in his place.
Just like most of the Lakers' early season games, there's not a lot to be learned until the team is at full strength. The Thunder are more likely than not to get the win but the Lakers should be able to make a game of it.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers at Thunder.
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