Stargazing in LA: Kobe's Lakers take on KD, Thunder
(Sports Network) - Two of the Western Conference's top teams will square off in a Hollywood showcase Thursday when Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers square off with Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The game will also mark the return of Derek Fisher to Staples Center.
The Thunder, who lead the West with an impressive 38-12 record, opened up a brief two-game road trip by blitzing Portland, 109-95, at the Rose Garden on Tuesday.
Russell Westbrook scored 10 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter of that one while Durant added 25 points.
James Harden netted 21 and Serge Ibaka contributed eight points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Thunder, who won their fourth straight game overall.
"[Westbrook] really did a good job controlling the game," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was getting to the paint, he was getting to his sweet spots and making shots, and shooting over their guards."
Fisher, a longtime Laker favorite, was dealt to Houston at the trade deadline, before being bought out by the Rockets and signing with the Thunder. The veteran point guard had played 13 of his 16 NBA seasons and won five NBA championships with Los Angeles, before his defensive struggles forced the team to change directions and bring in Ramon Sessions from Cleveland to run the show.
The Thunder have won their four straight since inking Fisher, although he is in a minor role, averaging 3.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in just over 22 minutes a game as Westbrook's backup.
The Lakers, who are opening up a four-game homestand tonight, are fresh off a thrilling 104-101 win over the Warriors on Tuesday. Kobe Bryant made the go- ahead jumper with 32.3 seconds remaining in that one for LA.
Bryant scored a game-high 30 points despite shooting 9-of-24 from the floor. Pau Gasol added 19 points and matched a season-high 17 rebounds and Matt Barnes scored a season-high 18 points and had 10 boards for Los Angeles, which was coming off of a 102-96 loss to Memphis and is the third seed in the West, seven games south of OKC.
"Our guys did a terrific job of keeping their composure and trying to execute," said Lakers coach Mike Brown.
The game was not without controversy, however. Brown benched Andrew Bynum after his All-Star center attempted, and missed, a three-point shot from the top of the key with 10:05 remaining in the third quarter. It was an unconventional move by the 7-footer, who had attempted just eight three in his career.
Brown sat Bynum for the last nine minutes of the third after his miscue.
"I don't know what was bench-worthy about the shot to be honest with you," said Bynum. "I made one (the first of his career on Sunday). I wanted to make another one. That's it. He took offense to it, so he put me on the bench."
Bynum's benching, however, also came just two days after Brown sat Bryant late in the loss to Memphis so you can bet a microscope will be pointed at LA's bench tonight.
The Lakers, who will also face New Orleans, Golden State and New Jersey on their residency, have dropped two of their last three at Staples Center but are a gaudy 20-4 there on the season. OKC, meanwhile, is a solid 16-8 as the visitor.
The Lakers have won 14 of their last 17 over the Thunder but Oklahoma City has won two straight, including a 100-85 rout in the Sooner State back on Feb. 23.
03/29 10:50:29 ET