OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) For the second time in less than a week, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers must figure out how to fight back after a humbling loss.
Bryant responded the first time by calling out his teammates for lackluster effort.
It might not be so simple this time.
Russell Westbrook had 27 points and nine assists, Kevin Durant added 25 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder blasted the weary Lakers 119-90 Monday night in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals.
This blowout came four days after Bryant’s Lakers trailed by as many as 28 in a loss at Denver, then bounced back to win Game 7. They’ll need to find some answers before Game 2 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.
“I’ve seen both sides of that equation and my experience has taught me just to be patient and to think the game through,” said Bryant, who tied Andrew Bynum for the team lead with 20 points.
“We can come up with a different strategy and we can do a much better job and have a much better showing in the next game.”
The Thunder took a 15-point halftime lead, opened the third quarter with a 15-2 blitz filled with crowd-pleasing 3-pointers and dunks, and never looked back. The final margin ended up being the fourth-largest in the history of the Oklahoma City franchise, including its years in Seattle.
It matched the 12th-largest defeat in Lakers postseason history, and the sixth worst of Bryant’s career. Three of those losses came in close-out games when L.A. was done for the series. Once was the start of a four-game sweep. The other two times, the Lakers came back to win the next game – both during their run to the 2000 NBA title.