On a star-studded evening at Staples Center, the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers put on a show for the national audience, but ultimately, Kevin Durant’s 43 points were too much for the Lakers.
To start the game, the Lakers jumped out to an early seven-point lead. Seemingly everyone was waiting for the Oklahoma City Thunder to wake up and rally, but after 12 minutes, the Lakers still led by seven points. Kendall Marshall, who returned to the starting lineup once Steve Nash was ruled out, led the Lakers with 10 points and three assists in the first quarter.
Marshall was a threat throughout and finished with 14 points and a game-high 17 assists in the loss.
In the second 12 minutes, the Lakers continued to hold the Thunder down, especially from the outside. By halftime, the Thunder had only converted two of their 11 three-point shots. Durant was shooting a dismal 0-7 from long range, as an undersized Wesley Johnson bothered the skinny forward.
Johnson’s defense was stellar, and after the game, Johnson said that Durant told him “you made me work for it.” Johnson said that meant a lot coming from a guy who was the frontrunner for the league’s MVP award this season.
At the half, the Lakers were up by nine, and suddenly, the team with the fewest wins in the Western Conference seemed like it had a legitimate shot at beating the team with the most wins in the Western Conference.
In the third quarter, the Lakers did not collapse for once.
Instead, they extended their lead to 15 points, and suddenly the impossible appeared to become the probable. The Thunder finished the third quarter with a 5-0 run, but the Lakers still won the quarter and went into the final stanza up by 10 points.
The crowd at Staples Center was alive again. Stars like Jack Nicholson, Kevin Hart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were peppered along the sidelines, but the only star that mattered when the fourth quarter came about was on the floor.
In the final 12 minutes, Durant scored 19 points; the Laker scored 21 points.
Ultimately, the eight active Lakers could not stop a man that, frankly, no one in the NBA has been able to stop this season.
The Lakers lost 107-103, but this was a closer and more entertaining game than most anyone predicted.