Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

“I love everything about those kids,” Kobe Bryant said of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. “They work extremely hard, they’re all about winning and they’re not afraid.”

Hard-working, hungry for victory and fearless – sounds like someone we know. And with just a quarter left in the regular season, Bryant is aware that in order to get to the top of the mountain again, he can’t be the only one on this defending championship team with a relentless drive for greatness. Maybe it took a short break during the All-Star weekend to put it all together. Maybe with the bulk of the regular season behind them, the Lakers are finally ready to sprint the final leg to the playoffs. The means to that end will not be an easy one, but based on this latest four-game winning streak, this team looks more than just alive. They are actually kicking.

The last time the Lakers were in Oklahoma City, they had just eliminated the Thunder in that challenging first-round of last season’s playoffs. But before that visit, they were trounced in Games 3 and 4 by the young team and, let’s face it, their uber supportive home crowd. With OKC beefing up their roster with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, they have a chance to finally compete with the Lakers’ size, and today’s game proved just how much they need it.

Andrew Bynum, a concern shortly before the All-Star break due to some lingering discomfort in his surgically repaired knee, just showed today that he’s doing okay. 16 points on 5-7, 6-8 from the free throw line, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, 5 blocks and ONE FOUL? Bynum is actually more than okay and slowly but surely since his return from injury, he’s proven that he is more than just a big body; he’s a big body…with skills. He called for the ball all afternoon and headed to the rack to finish and was rewarded each time, either with a high percentage shot or free throws. On the other end, his 7-10 boards prevented second chance points by OKC and the five blocks more than just saved the Lakers 10 Thunder points. It served as a reminder to the Thunder of exactly why they traded away their good friend, Jeff Green. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Bynum’s running mate, Pau Gasol was another such reminder. He had 13 points in the first half en route to his 18 for the game on 7-13. He also had 11 rebounds. In the last few games, teams have been trying in vain to keep Gasol out of the paint, but what does he do when he’s fenced off that area? He makes them suffer with his mid-range jumpers and pull-ups instead. Gasol’s offensive arsenal may not be as vast as Kobe Bryant’s (whose is?!), and he doesn’t dominate with brute force like Bynum, but the man can shoot with either his left or right, can score from as far as 20 feet and he’s as intelligent as they come.

Kobe Bryant worked himself up to #7 on the NBA all-time scoring list today, and despite an off shooting night, he managed to do other things, like play facilitator. He was met with double teams often, and in those situations, he passed to depending teammates like Pau Gasol, whose jumpers hit nothing but twine; Shannon Brown, who had stolen the ball from Durant then threw it to Bryant who gave it back to him for a fastbreak dunk; Steve Blake, who brought down a defensive board and quickly ran to plant himself in the corner just in time for Bryant to send him back the rock for a long two.

This game started out to be all about offense, with the Lakers allowing the Thunder to shoot 61% in the first two quarters. In the second half, however, it was all D, as in DEFENSE. OKC did their job on Kobe Bryant. Thabo Sefalosha and James Hardern were each up to the task and Bryant went 8-22 because of their efforts. But their defense couldn’t stop Mamba when it matters most to the 2-time finals MVP – crunch time. With just over four minutes left in the game, Bryant hit a three over a clearly sleeping Daequan Cook to give the Lakers their largest lead of the game, 87-80. Then in the closing seconds, he hit a tough fadeaway over Sefalosha.

For the Lakers, the second half was a 180 over their defensive deficiencies in the first. Russell Westbrook had 17 points on 7-10 in the first half but went only 1-6 the rest of the way. Kevin Durant was just 8-20 for his 21 points, but it wasn’t just Ron Artest who contributed to his off shooting game. Checking a scorer like Durant takes a concerted effort, and the Lakers worked together on it today. Artest received the bulk of his minutes on the floor, but Gasol and Bynum got their turn when Durant got in the paint and even Bryant stuck himself to the young forward around the perimeter. After scoring 56 first-half points, the Lakers allowed OKC to score just 31 in the second (only13 in the third quarter!) and forced them into 19 turnovers. In the end, it was the Lakers making defensive stances to win the game; Pau Gasol taking a charge and then Ron Artest tipping the ball out of Kevin Durant’s hands just as he received a pass.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are an exciting young team. They absolutely entice basketball fans with their athleticism and sheer speed. But what they are missing is some veteran savvy, which overflow out of this Lakers team. Youth may not be on the side of these defending champs, but that experience thing sure helps sometimes.

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts: Kendrick Perkins won’t be available to play in a couple of weeks, and who knows if Nate Robinson will see any time on the floor, but these OKC kids are still a tough team. They’ve lost two in a row and are looking to their home crowd to help get them past the defending champs. Laker bigs will need to step up today. Until Perkins is activated, the Thunder still don’t have enough to pit against the likes of Bynum, Gasol and Odom.
Half-time Thoughts: 51-56 – The Lakers got behind by as much as 14 points in the second quarter, but an 18-4 run helped them tie the game. Unfortunately, they still allowed the Thunder to shoot 61% for the half. The visitors need to tighten up their defense because the likes of Russell Westbrook, who leads all scores with 17 points, is getting everything he wants at the rim. A positive note for the Lakers is the 30 points by the bigs, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. They are 12-20, while the rest of the team is 10-22. Aside from some improved defense, the Lakers need to continue taking advantage of their length on offense.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: This isn’t so much a thoughtless item as it is a funny musing. Luke Walton played almost six minutes, no field goal attempts, no rebounds, no assists, no fouls- not a single stat, but he was a +2 for the game. How’s THAT for getting something with nothing?
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: The Laker bigs delivered today, combining for 43 points, 28 rebounds and Andrew Bynum led the game with five blocks. THAT is how this team wins games!

  • Nick

    When the Thunder playoff rotation is Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Thabo, Perkins, Maynor, Ibaka, Collins, and whoever else they play… U ugys are doneeee. U won’t even get 2 see Boston in June. You are fuckeddd. Spurs, OKC, and Dallas are just too much to overcome. I’de shut up and talk nooo shit if L.A makes it through the West.

    • Nick’s DADDY

      Get back in your room!! You have NOTHING on your team that scares me. I’ve got answers for everything: Durant/Artest, Westbrook/Kobe (case in point, Gm5 and beyond last year and again today in the second half) Perkins/ LOL who cares, you don’t have big bro KG protecting him anymore. He won’t make as big an impact when he’s out guarding a competent big on his own. Ibaka/Gasol, really? really? let’s move on. Harden, Maynor, Collins (LOL) and “spontaneous” Nate aka Donkey?? please kid. Spurs have nothing for us in 7 gm series. They won’t be able to grind, and Dallas? May have been a threat to consider before Butler’s injury. Pau’s D is underrated against Dirk, hell i’d even consider Ron Ron on Dirk. JKidd will have his hands full with a focused KB, and they have NO answer for our bigs!!! Chandler/Haywood??? You really oughta think things thru before posting you juvenile lil punk! now go to bed!

      • LakerMarc

        Plus those dudes know nothing about really playing in the playoffs and esp not in WCF.. The NBA Finals are just a dream for them…For years Dallas have been ‘really good’ and ‘for real’ but every year they just choke when it matters most.
        Not a concern.

    • Inverse

      Because Boston isn’t making it to june. Sorry little puppy. LA vs. Chicago 2011 NBA finals

    • SHOWTIME4EVA

      you should get out of here and worry about your sinking ship. we’ve just won the last two titles, dip shit! right now the Lakers are THE experts on winning.your dumb ass has enough to worry about with Bulls,Knicks and Heat. it’s you who wont see June. oh yeah I notice you silly fucks traded perk..wasnt he supposedly the reason you losers lost to us in june??? then you trade him away?? looks like you leppers are already making excuses.im telling you,you fags from boston have built in excuses…it doesnt matter anyway we are gonna beat you or whoever..the rest of teams can ONLY wish.your gonna shut the fuck up cause your to pussy to show your ass here, once we kick it. MARK MY WORDS! GO LAKERS!!

      • LakerMarc

        Same thing for Bulls…If they make it to the finals..they dont know that, they dont know how to handle the pressure…the playoffs is still just a dream for them… what do they know about advancing even into ECF…they dont…they’ll choke too..youth kills in Championships!!

    • 1234567

      ya your right we wont see the celdicks team in june. cuz they’ll prolly get their @ss handed to them in the 2nd round. you gotta be kidding in and thinkin that shaq is your focal point center now. SERIOUS? what is he gonna give you 2-3 mins maybe 5 at most if he doesnt break his own ankles from old age. If anything, quit the lame excuse of building a team that other teams should wanna copy. cuz what i see, you guys are tryna copy a laker formula. getting nenad to be your pau gasol wanna-be and then gettin green off the bench to be your LO wanna-be. f*ckin pathetic. everyone in the east is out to shoot you down, while the lakers are just barely starting to warm up and go after a 3rd championship.

      • Tyler

        Your team of Geriatrics wont have enough energy after getting beat by the bulls to sit down in a wheel chair and be taken to a nursing home. Your stupid celdicks won’t even get out of the second round

        Lakers Gonna 3 peat

    • xtro

      perkins got knee issues right now. don’t be too arrogant. oks hasn’t won jack shit. last time i checked, lakers are the champs.

    • Nicks DUMB

      Im hella weak “nicks daddy” perfect name lmao bt all ur guys comments hit the spot nick can suk a d*** for all i care

  • TimD

    Seriously trying to come in here with your OKC supporting ass and runamuck and jam us up? Come on now. We’ve won 4 in a row and finally starting to play solid ball. No one is legitimately scared of OKC right now. I echo previous 3 comments. LAKER NATION FEEELIN YOU!

  • Rob in Argentina

    OKC, you’ve got a little drool hanging off your chin, why don’t you go get that cleaned up ok? Daddy a little busy getting ready for a 3-peat. Guys, I finished my season in NBA Live and guess who made the finals? Lakers-Bulls…
    and that’s what I’m seeing right now as happening… whether or not we sweep them like I did, who knows?
    LAKERS TUNED IN IS CLOSE TO IMPOSSIBLE TO BEAT IN A 7 GAME SERIES.
    Peace Laker fans!

  • KobeDaBossfrmPA

    OKC got better defensively wit da trade but dey dont have enough scoring to beat us…Durant never shoots good vs us n if ur PG gonna be the scorer and he gotta finish over our length + can’t hit from the outside its gonna be a long series…outside KD n Westbrook who’s ya best scorer Harden’s 10-12 that’s light…Perkins, Ibaka, Collinson, Sefelosha, n the backup pg from VA Commonwealth are intangible players with little to no scoring ability that puts alot of pressure on they big 2 1 off shooting night and their doomed….Lakers are coming into our own…I like when we get gritty wins…when things aren’t going our way and we fight through it and come out with the W especially when its from the defensive end…31 pts in the 2nd half is great. The focus seems to be more clear and as of late Ron Ron has been producing with defense and some #’s he deserves credit there since he takes so much heat when things don’t go his way…? Am I the only 1 on here who wonders y Luke Walton gets minutes every game with little to no impact…I kno he keeps the triangle moving with the second unit but I would much rather see Ebanks get that time. We just might have something there as long as he continues to work hard he’s productive with the scraps we feed him. I think we can use his length, youth, n athleticism wit some regulars(Bynum,Odom,occasionally Pau, Cannon, n Blake) can’t wait to see Barnes back…looks like we’re gearing up for a fierce title defense…I can’t wait…3 peat LakerNation

    • LakerMarc

      Luke is #1 on the Gotta Go List seriously just taking advantage of the hard work of this teammates….he’s just lucky to be on this team bcs that dude prolly dsnt score 30 pts in a season from beg to end incl post season….whack!!

      who cares abt his triangle facilitation and ‘he’s a great passer’ THATS THE VERY LEAST HE COULD BE SINCE THERE ISNT MUCH ELSE!!!

  • uweee

    NICE TRY NICK………….you better practice keeping your mouth shut from now…….

  • Gugy

    Just think it’s funny that you guys always fall in the troll’s bait here.
    Just ignore these guys, that’s the best answer you can give them. That way they won’t come back.

    • xtro

      just to show how scared they are of the lakers. they talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk just like their teams.

  • Brown Hater

    I like the effort on two nice road wins against the Blazers & the Thunder as well as Ron showing signs of life, but the real test starts on Sunday The Spurs, Hawks, Heat and Mavs all on the road. We go through those teams and still look good and then I’ll start given this team some props but until then 4 game win streak aren’t really anything to cheer about Especially after a 3 game losing streak that envolved the Cavs.

  • Nick

    Buncha fucking goons u L.A fans are trying to fabricate a threat to us in the East. 1st it was Miami, now it’s New York, and some of you also say Chicago. Not 1 of those teams would even take us 7 games u fucking clowns. BIG-4, Big baby, O’ NEAL’s, Jeff Green, Delonte West, Troy Murphy, Krstic. We have more depth than ur Laker scrubs could ever dream of. Name 1 TRUE contender that doesn’t have a better bench then the lala fakers. Dallas, Boston, San Antonio, Chicago, OKC. All of them teams have far better benches than L.A. mIAMI AND nEW yORK AREN’T CONTENDERS UNLESS LOSING IN THE SEMI-FINALS IS WHAT WE’RE DISCUSSING HERE. How can u guys really dismiss OKC?? 1st of all they aren’t even the toughest test you’ll have because u already know how good the 2 texas teams are and how deep they are. I can see Roddy Beabois, Tony Parker, and Westbrook raping L.A all postseason. Go ahead and have the garden snake try tyo always cover lighting quick point guards. It ain’t happening this year.. You are finished and u know ittttt! U ugys BARELY squeaked 1 out against OKC yesterday without them having the best big man defender in the NBA.. CLOWNS
    Boston vs OKC in the finals. u heard it here 1st

    • NBAmazkingKB24

      it sounds like you don’t want to see the Lakers in the finals. Why? Scared? I wan’t the Celtics to beat all the team in the east so we can meet in the finals. Thought celtics fans are dying for a revenge. no? Or do you guys want the easy way out and hope teams like thunders be up there to contend with the celtics? No disrespect to thunders. But you sound like you don’t want to face us in the finals. If you do, then you better be rooting for us Nick.

    • xtro

      the road to the championship goes to Los Angeles, fool.

  • SHOWTIME4EVA

    this punk is scared.

  • Nick

    fuk you goons! I ain’t scared. I’ve been molested as a kid, and you think you LA faggots scare me! what a joke!

  • Nick

    That fake ass Nick is here again! GTFO! I was never molested, I let my uncle do it! There’s a difference you fag.

  • Brown Hater

    Ok let me get this straight Perkins is the best Big man Defender in the NBA but the Celtic’s just traded him away while he’s still in prime for a decent wing player when the rules to almost any good trade is you never trade a big for small. So either Perkins is that good or the Celtics are kinda stupid considering all their bigs will be retire in about 2 years

  • Nick

    it was my father

  • Dick in Nick

    It was both his father and uncle!

    • LakerMarc

      We’re not providing family counseling services you fucking lunatic. GTFO!!!

  • hunter bautista

    Nick = Lafsattu

  • david-24

    Laffsattu got IP banned for being a dumbshit!

    • Tyler

      Maybe we can Ban this D-Bag

  • Bagels

    Interesting story from Hollinger on ESPN. Even though he hates the Lakers he pointed out how the Thunder- Celtics trade is going to affect their offense as it has in recent games. Without Green and Krstic Spreading the Floor Durant and Westbrook are having a tough time driving to the rim and getting close. They are both beginning to settle for tough jump shots and floaters. Though they are much better defensively, they gave up a ton of offensive advantage and speed. Both Perkins and Ibaka are severely limited on offense, and if sefolosha is in the game, the only two people you have to worry about at all are westbrook and durant. The only way they can get offense is having Durant Play the four where he just gets owned and winded.

    I am really not worried about the thunder until they have another legitimate scorer at shooting guard or Ibaka develops into an offensive threat.

  • scared to death