LOS ANGELES –Staples Center hasn’t been the friendliest of buildings to Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
However, the NBA’s three-time scoring champ erupted for a season-high 42 points Friday night in OKC’s 116-101 demolition of the slumping Los Angeles Lakers, who have now lost six straight games for the first time in six seasons.
Durant had collected 25 points by halftime, finished 16 for 25 from the field and added eight rebounds and five assists.
Entering Friday’s game, Durant had shot 45.9 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range for his career inside the home facility of the Lakers and Clippers.
In the first round of the 2010 playoffs, Durant shot just 35.0 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range against the Lakers.
A sold-out Staples Center (18,997) essentially was hushed from start to finish Friday thanks to Durant’s persistent marksmanship from multiple locations near and far.
In the second period, Durant scored 16, shooting 6 for 8 from the field, 2 for 3 from 3-point range, but just 2 for 4 from the line. Through three quarters, he had 40 points, was 15 for 22 from the field and 4 for 9 from 3-point range.
“I don’t think it was a game where he was on fire,” Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant said of Durant. “I thought we just gave him very makeable shots.
When you give guys that are that good at shooting the ball makeable shots he’s going to make them. We gave them a lot of easy opportunities. We had a lot of defensive lapses which gave them some easy cracks at the basket, and they took advantage of it.”
Durant said he had no idea how many different players defended him on the night, but it included at least Metta World Peace, Bryant and Earl Clark. Durant said he pays closer attention to the opponent’s defense as a whole rather than who specifically is defending him.
“Just worry about shooting a good shot and making a strong move, that’s all I worry about,” Durant said. “It doesn’t matter who’s guarding me. Different guys were guarding me tonight I just tried to get to my spots and shoot the shots I normally shoot. Just try to let it fly.”
OKC point guard Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists for his 15th double-double of the season. Kevin Martin added 15 points off the bench.
The Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are now tied for the best record in the NBA at 28-8.
It was the first contest in a three-game road trip for OKC, which plays at Portland on Sunday and at Phoenix on Monday before returning home for a Wednesday contest against Denver at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After that, the Thunder plays six straight road games.
Durant and Westbrook took turns controlling Friday’s game – Durant with his shooting and Westbrook with his overall playmaking. After making just one of his first five shots, Westbrook finished 10 for 21 from the field.
“Kevin took control most of the game,” Westbrook explained. “My job is to make sure everything is in control and that’s what I tried to do.”
The Lakers (15-21) were missing two starters in 7-foot power forward Pau Gasol (concussion) and 6-foot-11 starting center Dwight Howard (shoulder).
LA did not have two imposing players clogging the lane.
“It’s a little different,” Westbrook said, flashing a huge smile, “but we can’t worry about that, the other team. I think we did a good job of playing our brand of basketball.”
The news got even worse for the Lakers when they learned reserve forward Jordan Hill needs hip surgery and will miss the remainder of the season.
“We have to put things in proper perspective,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They have some of their best players not playing tonight and they’re shorthanded. They’re going to be a different team once they get everybody back, but we played well. We made shots and we passed the ball extremely well (28 assists on 44 field goals). … When we defend and rebound, we’re a pretty good team on the offensive end.”
The Thunder’s biggest lead was 27, while the Lakers’ biggest was two. The score was 110-85 when starters were pulled with 4:26 remaining. The Lakers shot 39.8 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
“If they’re missing that means we know we’re capable of filling up the scoreboard,” Martin said. “Coach Brooks loves to concentrate on field goal percentage on the defensive side of the ball and any time we hold them under 40 percent, we have a good shot of winning.”