LOS ANGELES –It was only a matter of time before Kevin Durant got it going offensively as his scored 31 of his game-high 43 points in the second half that helped lead the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Los Angeles Lakers 107-103.
Durant struggled in the first half only scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but scored 12 the third quarter and 19 in the fourth quarter that allowed the Thunder to erase a 10-point deficit entering the final quarter. Oklahoma City began the fourth quarter on a 17-5 spurt to that gave ended with a 89-87 lead after a layup by Durant with just over six minutes left in the game.
The teams exchanged the lead three times in the final few minutes in the game with the Thunder ahead as much as five points. Los Angeles had chance to tie the game after Chris Kaman was fouled on a made layup but missed the free throw.
Despite suffering a franchise-record seventh straight home loss, head coach Mike D’Antoni was pleased by his team’s effort against the Western Conference-leading Thunder.
“I thought the effort was terrific,” D’Antoni said. “They battled the whole game but we just ran into a little rough spot to start the fourth (quarter). You got to give them credit. They got into us and we turned the ball over way too many times. Again I’ve said it a thousand times, I ‘ve never questioned them coming to practice and working hard trying to get better and try to be a team.”
D’Antoni also felt that the team played stout defense against the league’s leading scorer, who notched his eight 40-point game of the season and his 43 points were a season-high that the Lakers allowed to an opponent.
“He was 14 for 33 (shooting), so that’s great defense,” D’Antoni said. “Anytime he shoots under 50 percent that’s good. We fouled him a couple of times and he got loose a couple time, but that’s Kevin Durant. That’s not where we got beat. We got beat turning it over and not making pass shots.
Kendall Marshall also felt that the team’s performance against the Thunder was a positive step forward despite losing the game.
“I thought we did a tremendous job for 44 minutes,” Marshall said, who tied his career-high 17 assists and also had 14 points. “Throughout the entire first half we made it tough on them as a team. We hit shots and got out in transition. We did a staple of what our coach preaches.
“Again there was a four-minute stretch where we turned the ball over, but that’s going to happen. We got to weather the storm and you got to give them credit. They are a great team.”
The Lakers had started the game on the right foot as they quickly raced out to a 9-2 lead with five early points coming from Marshall, who led the team with 10 in the opening quarter. Los Angeles held the lead for the entire quarter and held as much as a nine-point advantage.
It was Los Angeles’ defense in the first quarter that helped maintain a lead throughout the quarter as they held the Thunder to just 29 percent shooting. Although Oklahoma City was held in check, Durant managed score 10 points to go along with six rebounds.
The Lakers maintained their lead that they stretched to as much as 12 points in the second quarter on 59 percent shooting that included 10 points from Shawne Williams and six assists from Marshall as they headed into halftime with a 54-45 lead. Durant continued to struggle offensively, but Reggie Jackson picked up the slack for Oklahoma as he scored 10 points.
Los Angeles heads into the All-Star break losing 22 out of their last 27 games and will be looking recharge in the second half of the season with several players returning from injury.
“I think during these next 29 games we will get honed in and try to get it better,” D’Antoni said. “It’s been a crazy year and there will still be some turbulence ahead. The thing I hope is that with all the effort, the things they do in practice, all of the good teammates; they get rewarded for it. I hope to get a little bit of a streak going by winning some games and getting some momentum going.”
In his first start since Jan. 31, Marshall posted his 11th double-double as a starter and handed out his 14th double digit assist game by tying his career-high of 17 dimes.
The second-year guard has excelled as the team’s starting point by making the most of his opportunity with the team, but he credits his high level of play to the confidence he and teammates have in him.
“The biggest thing is confidence,” Marshall said. “All my coaches and teammates are instilling confidence (in me) that makes it easy to go out and play, which you got give them credit for that.”
Marshall’s performance has also caught the eye of his head coach.
“His numbers are definitely nice,” D’Antoni said. “He has definitely responded. He is playing really, really, really well.”
Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports
Bob Garcia IV
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