OKLAHOMA CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers were looking to make a statement. After climbing to within two games of the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, they needed a victory over one of the elite teams to prove they were for real.
The Lakers found that test in Oklahoma City against the defending conference champions. Even though a battered and beat up L.A. squad fought down to the final minutes, they still fell 122-105 Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"I told these guys they are good," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They are probably the best team in the West. We need to measure up against it. We knew that two things were going to happen. We need to make the playoffs and then get Pau (Gasol) back and then we will see. "
The Lakers (30-31) had their chances to steal the win. Steve Nash drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to five, Oklahoma City scored four straight, including a Serge Ibaka 3-pointer to push advantage to nine with 3:39 left.
The Thunder (44-16) forced Kobe Bryant to give the ball up and the Lakers were unable to make the open shots. In the final three minutes Dwight Howard fouled out and World Peace injured his ankle and had to leave the game.
Oklahoma City put the game away with back to back dunks from Ibaka and Russell Westbrook that got the Thunder faithful on their feet.
“This time of the year, our crowd is always like that,” Westbrook said. “The Lakers came in and basically everybody said it was a must win. We needed the win to. We came out with a sense of urgency as well.”
Westbrook had a game-high 37 points on 15-for-29 shooting. He also racked up 10 rebounds and five assists. Kevin Durant added 26 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.