The Los Angeles Lakers (30-31) entered Tuesday night’s game against potential playoff foe Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16) with a .500 record and some positive movement. Whatever momentum the Lakers entered the game with was halted in Oklahoma City with a 122-105 loss that saw the Thunder make a dominant run at the end of the game to seal the deal on a game they had led throughout.
The Thunder dominated throughout the game beginning with a 7-0 run to start, and the Lakers would never close the gap.
More bad news came for the Lakers a few minutes in when Kobe grimaced in pain after an entanglement with Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha. He left the game with an injury to his elbow.
While Bryant would return after five minutes, he could be seen wincing throughout the game although it did not seem to affect his performance.
The star guard scored 30 points in the defeat.
At age 34, Bryant remains one of the greatest competitor’s the NBA has ever seen. Russell Westbrook, the shoot-first Thunder point guard, reminds me of a younger Bryant as the 24-year-old is a fearless and fiery competitor.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 37 points and also contributed 10 rebounds and 5 assists in an impressive performance. Star forward Kevin Durant also contributed 26 points.
While the Thunder may again fall short of an NBA Championship, this will be a special team to watch for years as Westbrook, Durant (24), and Serge Ibaka (23) form a talented trio that will be in place for years. Even this year, OKC, last year’s runner up, remains among the league’s best threats to dethrone the Heat.
The Lakers meanwhile, continue to have to evaluate their long-term plan. The aging Bryant has put this team on his back, but it has only been enough to get the Lakers to 9th place in the Western Conference.
“Star“ center Dwight Howard’s name seemed to only be heard to announce a foul. He had as many fouls as points (6).