LOS ANGELES — Pau Gasol scored 21 points, Kobe Bryant had 21 and also missed three last-minute free throws, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-94 on Monday night for their eighth win in nine games.
Lamar Odom had 16 points, and Derek Fisher scored a season-high 15 for the Lakers in the clubs’ first meeting since Los Angeles sent home the eighth-seeded Thunder from the first round of last season’s playoffs in a highly competitive six-game series.
Russell Westbrook had 32 points and 12 assists, and he led a late run aided by those three straight misses by Bryant. But Westbrook missed two free throws of his own with 21.4 seconds left before airballing a 3-point attempt.
NBA scoring-leader Kevin Durant had 24 points on 8-of-24 shooting for the Thunder, whose four-game winning streak ended. The Thunder were undone by 2-for-22 shooting from 3-point range, including a 1-for-8 effort by Durant, who missed 14 of his last 18 shots overall.
One day after the Lakers wilted in the fourth quarter of a streak-snapping loss to the Clippers, Los Angeles hit more big shots down the stretch than Oklahoma City, which had won 13 of 18 and had the previous three days off.
Although Oklahoma City’s outstanding season makes another first-round playoff series highly unlikely, the teams easily could meet for bigger stakes. They have the makings of a lively rivalry, with Bryant and Durant trading artistic baskets while the Lakers’ half-court offense clashes intriguingly with the Thunder’s up-tempo attack.
Los Angeles scored 14 straight points in the third quarter and took a 76-61 lead by grinding the game into a half-court contest, but the Thunder rediscovered their transition game and made a 14-2 rally late in the period to pull within 81-75 heading to the fourth.