Thunder Honor Kobe Then Hammer Helpless Lakers
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The Thunder did something last night they’d never done before for a current player but they honored Lakers future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant with a tribute video on scoreboard.
A couple hours before tipoff Thunder future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook presented Bryant with a unique gift, a book of photographs and hand written notes from OKC players describing their favorite memories of playing against the Lakers living legend.
After that it was business till the end as the Thunder hammered the Lakers 112-79, holding LA to just 28.4 percent shooting.
“We just wanted to win tonight, we wanted to win,” KD said after the game.
Westbrook echoed his All-Star teammate.
“Getting ready for the playoffs we’ve gotta get our minds and bodies right.”
The Thunder got off to a slow shooting start but the combination of stout OKC defense and at times inept LA offense quickly got things rolling the Thunder’s way.
“Overall I thought it was a complete game for us,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “I thought we played well on both ends and it was good you know to get a win tonight.”
After winning eight straight the Thunder had lost four of their last six coming into last night’s game so winning was definitely job one.
But you could also tell it was a special game for fans, many of whom showed up in Laker purple and gold and Thunder players, especially Durant and Westbrook, who grew up watching Bryant and admiring his game.
"The fans did their job by showing him major love," Durant said. "I know we competed against him so many times, two playoff series against these guys, coming in here as one of the most hated players. They showed a lot of class tonight, as we expect our fans to do, and he came out and played well for them."
"It was very special for me, man," Westbrook said. "Growing up in L.A., a young boy watching the Lakers and watching him kind of take over the town, and to be here now, in the NBA, being a part of his last (road) game is something special to me. It's a blessing. It's something I never take for granted."
Bryant has admitted he sees a lot of himself in the Thunder point guard and after playing the entire first quarter Bryant watched amazed from the Lakers bench as Russ piled up the second fastest triple-double in NBA history registering 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 17 minutes, 45 seconds. Westbrook finished his night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.
"I haven't seen anybody get triple-doubles as much as he has in a season," Bryant told a huge throng of local and national reporters after the game. "That's pretty outrageous, what he's been able to do all year long. It seems to fly under the radar with what Steph (Curry) is doing at Golden State and what they're doing as a team, but he's having a historical season. He's probably the most athletic player I've ever played against."
Westbrook’s triple is his 18th of the season, tying Magic Johnson’s mark set in the 1981-82 season and the most since the NBA-ABA merger.
Durant also made some more history scoring 34 points and extending his streak of consecutive games with at least 20 points to 64. That’s the longest such streak since Michael Jordan strung together 69 straight in the 1990-91 season.
The Thunder flew to San Antonio after the game to get ready for tonight’s nationally televised season finale against the Spurs.
Donovan gave no clue last night as to what his lineup plans will be telling reporters he’ll consult with the team’s medical staff and talk to players.
More than likely much, if not all, the Thunder starters will sit tonight against the Spurs. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich may decide to do much the same thing with his starters.