LOS ANGELES — This holiday-week matchup against the Lakers was vastly different than the last one.
Unlike a lopsided loss days before Thanksgiving, a game the Thunder essentially was out of by halftime, the sequel days before Christmas was competitive from beginning to end.
The Lakers escaped 111-108 Tuesday night at the Staples Center. But their 11th consecutive home win wasn’t secure until Russell Westbrook missed a potential, game-tying 3-pointer in the waning seconds.
“We’re getting better,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “I’m so proud of our guys. I know we don’t like to take moral victories. But tonight we showed a lot of toughness, a lot of maturity. It was a tough loss. But we were right there at the end and could have won the game.”
On a night Jack Nicholson wasn’t at the game — evidently taking a holiday trip early so he can be back for LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the Cavaliers’ only visit Christmas Day — there were still a lot of stars on and off the court.
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 40 and Pau Gasol (15 points, 11 rebounds) had a double-double to lead six Lakers in double figures.
“Kobe needed every one of his 40 points tonight to beat us,” said coach Scott Brooks. “I have a lot of respect for how he plays. He brings it every night.”
But several Thunder players also played big.
Westbrook dished out 13 assists, scored 21 points and had only two turnovers, his first monster NBA game in his hometown.
Durant scored 30 points but fouled out with 1:31 left. He said it’s the first time he’s fouled out his life on any level — junior high, high school, his one year at Texas and three years in the NBA.
James Harden, the other LA product, scored 16 points. Thabo Sefolosha had a big first half and matched his season high (16 points). Serge Ibaka continues to carve out a bigger role, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds.
“This game shows we have a lot of heart and we’re growing,” Harden said. “We’re getting better.