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Kobe Bryant's defense dazzles Thunder in Lakers' rout

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, Modified: April 28, 2010 at 11:09 am •  Published: April 28, 2010

Westbrook walked into Staples Center Tuesday having shot 55.2 percent in the first four games against L.A. and was turning the ball over just 1.5 times per game.

Bryant approached Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Monday to ask to be assigned to Westbrook.

“It’s about time,” Bryant explained. “We had to make some adjustments. Ron has been working extremely hard on Durant. Russell does such a great job of getting into the paint. I think I’m a pretty good defensive player myself. So I took on the assignment.”

Bryant, meanwhile, needed just 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting at the offensive end. It was one attempt less than he had when he drew criticism for being too passive in the Thunder’s Game 4 blowout Saturday in Oklahoma City.

But Bryant had plenty of help behind him on the defensive end.

Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol reverted to their Game 1 form, when both players controlled the paint and the tempo with their interior presence. Gasol finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Bynum recorded 21 points and 11 rebounds. Together, they totaled three of

L.A.’s 10 blocked shots and challenged seemingly every other shot that was hoisted on their watch.

Offensively, Gasol and Bynum combined to make 18 of 26 shots from the field and helped the Lakers shoot 53.8 percent, far and away their largest percentage of the series.

“We got our butts kicked. There’s no way around it,” said Brooks. “They outplayed us from the opening tip to the end of the game.”

Much like the first two games inside Staples Center, and even Game 3 at the Ford Center, the Thunder sputtered from the start and stared at a sizeable hole early. This time, it was a 31-16 deficit after one quarter, a margin made from a mixture of deficient defense, sloppy shooting and too many turnovers.

Combined, they became an all-too costly theme throughout the contest.

The Thunder missed its first 13 shots and didn’t get on the scoreboard until Westbrook made one of two free throws to bring OKC within 10-1 with 7:33 left in the period. The first field goal didn’t come until Durant buried a mid-range jumper with 5:49 to make it 14-3.

The Lakers lead only grew, first stretching to 55-34 at halftime, then swelling to as many as 32 in the third period.

“We let our offense affect our defense,” said Thabo Sefolosha when asked about the most discouraging aspect of Tuesday’s showing. “We weren’t playing on the defensive end the way we’ve been playing so far. And I think that came from the offense, us not getting baskets at first and being a little nervous.”