The Los Angeles Lakers retook control of the Western Conference first round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a lopsided 111-87 win on Tuesday night, April 27.
Kevin Durant and the young, but championship-hungry Thunder surprised the Lakers by winning the previous two games to tie the series, 2-2. But Kobe Bryant and the Lakers responded as only the defending champions are expected to, retaking the series lead, 3-2, with a dominating victory at home in the Staples Center.
Bryant finished with only 13 points, along with seven assists, but it was his presence on defense that made the difference. Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook has been performing well the entire series, because veteran Lakers guard Derek Fisher simply hasn’t been able to defend the younger Westbrook. That’s why Kobe decided to guard Westbrook Tuesday night, limiting the young, fast guard to only 15 points.
“I enjoy a challenge, and he’s been playing sensational,” Bryant told reporters on defending Westbrook. “If we’re going to be eliminated, I don’t want to go into the summer thinking I could have done something about it, so I accepted the challenge.”
While Kobe focused o defense, the Lakers relied on Pau Gasol for scoring, as he finished with 25 points, along with 11 rebounds and five assists. LA big man Andrew Bynum added 21 points with 11 rebounds, while Ron Artest followed with 14 points. Meanwhile, the Thunder failed to have one player score more than 20 points, which led to a 24-point blowout loss.
“I wish I could say why, but they kicked our butts from the beginning,” said Durant, who led Oklahoma City with only 17 points. “They had some dunks early on and got the fans excited, and they just kind of cruised from there. It was tough to come back.”
The Thunder will try to come back and retie the series in Game 6 on Friday night, April 30.