Kevin Durant, meanwhile, quietly wore out the Lakers just as much. He scored 20 points in the first half, making seven of 12 shots. He closed the half with a 3-pointer from straight away and a jump shot with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 71-55 advantage, the most points OKC has scored in a half this season.
Ball security and ball movement helped the Thunder build its 16-point halftime. Oklahoma City had just one turnover in the opening 24 minutes, a season low, and dished 12 assists that allowed 10 players to score.
The lone turnover — which stood until 5:06 remained in the fourth quarter — came on a disputed pass that the Thunder contended was deflected out of bounds by a Laker. The Thunder finished with just two giveaways, tying an NBA record.
The Lakers got as close as five when Steve Nash hit a corner 3-pointer off a feed from Bryant with 6:14 left to play. Westbrook split a pair of free throws at the other end, Serge Ibaka drained a corner 3 and Durant made a pair of foul shots to push the Thunder’s lead back to 11 inside the final 2½ minutes.
LA didn’t score the rest of the way.
It was all but over when Ibaka corralled a missed 3 by Westbrook before converting a putback layup and Westbrook followed by picking off a bad pass by Bryant and streaking the other way for a two-handed dunk.
“The Lakers came in with basically everybody saying this was a must win,” Westbrook said. “They needed a win, and we needed the win, too. So we came out with a sense of urgency as well.”