The Lakers led from start to finish for the ninth time this season and closed within one game of idle Cleveland for the best record in the NBA.
Lamar Odom scored 18 points before fouling out and Pau Gasol had 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for Los Angeles. All of the Lakers starters spent the final 8 minutes on the bench, getting some needed rest two games into a seven-game road trip.
Kevin Durant scored 24 points to lead Oklahoma City, which had all five starters reach double figures.
Los Angeles was up by nine within the first five minutes and then closed out the first quarter with eight straight points to go up by 17. For a team that hasn’t lost this season after leading by 17 or more, the Lakers could feel pretty comfortable by then—if not for their last visit to Oklahoma City.
In that game last month, the Lakers let an 18-point lead get whittled down to one before Bryant came to the rescue by scoring 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter of a 107-93 win.
This time, Bryant and the rest of the starters could get plenty comfortable as the bench got emptied. Even seldom-used reserves Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown—picked up in a trade last month with Charlotte—got into the game.
Oklahoma City was never closer than 17 in the second half.
The Lakers all but put the game away when they finished the first half on an 11-0 run shortly after Oklahoma City went with an oversized lineup, pushing their lead to 62-38. After Westbrook picked up his third foul, Thunder coach Scott Brooks went without a point guard and instead had Sefolosha and Durant in the backcourt with forwards Green, Collison and Krstic.
Earl Watson, who had been Oklahoma City’s backup point guard, has been benched the last six games.
By JEFF LATZKE