OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook had that look. Before he and his Oklahoma City teammates took on Los Angeles, he had the look of someone who was locked in and ready to punish the Lakers.
That is exactly what Westbrook did Friday as he led the Thunder to a 114-108 victory over the Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook scored 33 points, dropped eight assists and was 5 for 8 behind the arc as he continued his string of strong outings against the team he grew up watching as a kid
“They are a team that everybody likes,” Westbrook said. “As a young team coming up, you want to beat the best. I think that’s what it is.”
But the Thunder needed every point from Westbrook to hold off the visiting team.
For three quarters Oklahoma City pounded L.A. But their 19-point lead in the fourth was whittled down to 110-105 with 20 seconds left.
Westbrook was fouled and he hit a pair of free throws before the Lakers Kobe Bryant knocked down a fade away 3-pointer from the corner.
With the Thunder leading by four, Kevin Durant was fouled and he went to the stripe and hit both free throws to put the game away.
Bryant paced the Lakers with 35 points on 11 for 24 shooting. Howard racked up his 11th double-double of the season with 23 points and 18 rebounds.
But it was not enough to slow down the leagues top-scoring team. As impressive as Westbrook, Durant was equally effective. He quietly scored 36 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists.
That brings Durant’s total of 30 plus point games in his first five years to 130. Kobe, who just passed the 30,000 barrier, had only 42 in the same time span.
“If he stays healthy, he definitely will be in that category as one of the best players ever,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I haven’t messed him up yet. Hopefully I don’t do that. It’s hard to mess Kevin up. He works hard, has the skill set , he has the talent and a great attitude. He has the body, mind, the toughness, the ability to be a 28 to 30 point scorer for a lot of years.”
The first quarter belonged to Westbrook, who saved some of his best game for the Lakers. He came out firing from all over the court and poured in 13 points. That included a last second 3-pointer to close the Lakers lead to one point.
The Lakers were at their best when Howard was dominating the backboards. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison were unable to keep him off the offensive backboards.
However, it was too much for Westbrook, who seemed to take the matchup personally. He was on fire from the perimeter, but also threw down a couple of ferocious dunks to get the crowd on its feet as Oklahoma City took a 67-53-lead into halftime.
“Just happened to make some shots early and kept shooting,” Westbrook said.
Michael KinneyFollow me @email@example.com