From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers didn’t deal well with the extra intensity of their Christmas showdown with the Miami Heat. When they played a game Monday night that had a considerable playoff atmosphere against 2010 playoff challenger the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers were back on their game. The Lakers came away with a 101-94 victory at Staples Center by firming up their defense in the second half, when the Thunder could not. Pau Gasol dug deep to stabilize his game after getting chastised at one point after halftime by Coach Phil Jackson — and talking back — for not securing a rebound from Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was a demon with 32 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Gasol and Kobe Bryant each had 21 points for the Lakers, who also got 16 from Lamar Odom and a season-high 15 from Derek Fisher.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Kobe Bryant’s best Kwote of the night came when asked about his uncharacteristic five misses at the charity stripe: “That was point shaving.” All jokes aside, he also shared some big time props for Russell Westbrook, who did the overwhelming amount of damage to the Lakers: “The biggest compliment I can give him is the fact that you can’t treat him like a role player. What I mean by that is that some nights he’ll have good games, some nights he’ll have bad games. I had to tell the guys at halftime you have to approach him as a great basketball player, because that’s what he is. You can’t just assume he’ll miss shots.”
From Dave McMenamin, Land O’ Lakers: Aside from a late third quarter turnover when Bryant threw it out of bounds to nobody when he anticipated Pau Gasol would roll to the basket, Bryant maintained a perfect mix of when to pass and when to shoot. Bryant had five assists in the game before he had five shot attempts. After Bryant had eight assists and just 10 shot attempts in L.A.’s 55-point rout of the Cavaliers last week, Jackson said he would like to see more of Bryant wearing his distributor hat. Of course, Bryant went on to score 39 in his next game against the Warriors, but Monday he helped keep the offense balanced. Bryant finished with seven assists and 18 points on 12 shot attempts, allowing for five Lakers to reach double-digit scoring. His biggest dime of the night came with 3:47 to go in the fourth quarter when he found Gasol for a jumper that put L.A. up 10 and caused the Thunder to call timeout. As Bryant made his way to the bench, he sought out Gasol to praise him for rewarding Bryant’s faith in him. He shifted back to scoring mode late to put in the final free throws to cushion the lead.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen And Roll: It felt like spring in Los Angeles today. Temps in the high seventies beckoned you outside in the afternoon, and a tasty, nationally televised hoops contest enticed you back indoors at night. And as was the case last April, the opponent in town was the Oklahoma City Thunder, trying to snap an uncomfortably long losing streak at Staples Center. They’ll have to try again their next time through, as the Lakers beat them at home for the 11th straight time, 101 to 94. How tonight’s game unfolded no doubt seemed familiar to anyone who watched the two teams’ first-round playoff battle last season: the Thunder got brilliant play from Russell Westbrook, low-efficiency scoring from Kevin Durant and loads of sweet nothing from everyone else. This, as they’ve been reminded, is not a roadmap to knocking off the defending champs.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: A new player introduction flashed before the Staples Center scoreboard that perfectly summed up the team’s state of being. “A new dynasty demands excellence, requires patience. A dynasty falls down, rises up and rages on. A champion never stops and never quits.” In between the platitudes, the video featured several highlights capturing the 2010-11 season, ranging from Kobe Bryant jumpers, Pau Gasol hooks, Andrew Bynum dunks and Lamar Odom drives. But that video served as nothing more than just a movie trailer that featured all the best parts but ignored all the plot twists along the way. And in the Lakers’ case, there’s been several instances all season that’s added intrigue to their quest to three-peat. Winning streaks marred by poor performances against both sub.-500 and marquee opponents. Reports focusing on the state of Bryant’s and Andrew Bynum’s health, Pau Gasol’s tardiness, Ron Artest’s frustration with Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom’s fixation with celebrity, Derek Fisher’s inconsistency and the team’s overall hunger.
From Royce, The Daily Thunder: Only against a select few teams can you feel good about playing a solid game and losing. One of those teams is definitely the Lakers, especially with the game in Los Angeles. The Thunder were in a tough spot tonight. The Lakers had just dropped a bad one against the Clippers and were in the market for redemption. The game was of course in Staples, where things tend to lean the yellow way. And for the most part, especially in the half court, the Lakers present a pretty tough matchup for Oklahoma City. Still though, it feels like one slipped through the cracks here. It feels like an opportunity to beat the Lakers in Los Angeles just barely squeezed through the Thunder’s fingers. Statistically, across the board, the Thunder really were right there. Field goal percentage wasn’t a big gap. The Lakers only outrebounded OKC by one. Only nine turnovers for OKC compared to LA’s 15. Both teams made 18 free throws. Everything was pretty much even, sans one category. Three-point shooting.