By Jay Betsill
The Oklahoma City Thunder went into the NBA All-Star weekend with a road win over the Lakers. While it was the Lakers’ record seventh straight loss at the Staples Center, it took a great effort from Kevin Durant. He scored 19 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter to beat the undermanned squad. The win gave the Thunder a 1.5 game lead on Indiana for the NBA’s best record. Their 43-12 mark equaled the best start in the franchise’s 47-year history set by the 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics.
For the first game out of the break, the Thunder welcomed LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for a TNT Thursday night affair. In addition to being one of the marquee games on the NBA schedule, add in the return of point guard Russell Westbrook, who missed the previous 27 games after having surgery on his right knee and this had the makings of an epic night. Led by James, who 16 of his 33 points in the first quarter, the Heat led 34-17 after the first frame and never looked back en route to a 103-81 win.
With 5:50 remaining, James was struck by the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka on a drive to the basket and while he would finish the dunk, James would land on the floor with blood dripping from his face. The hit would result in a broken nose for the Heat’s superstar forward.
“When you don’t have good rhythm, normally the three-ball can get you back into the game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We didn’t have shot makers tonight. We’ve had them for a while now. We didn’t have them tonight.”
The Thunder had a few days off to regroup before hosting another of the NBA’s glamour teams, the Los Angeles Clippers. While the Clippers star-studded roster includes Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, it would be shooting guard Jamal Charles who would lead them with 36 points in Los Angeles’ 125-117 triumph over the Thunder.
“Jamal made timely shots,” Paul said. “Every time they made a run and we just needed a bucket, Jamal was our guy.”
Durant led Oklahoma City with 42 points and 10 assists and Ibaka added 20 points and six rebounds. The Thunder overcame a 15-point deficit late in the third quarter to take a 115-112 lead, but the Clippers took control of the game from there. The dagger was provided by Crawford’s 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining to give Los Angeles a 119-115 lead.
“We’ve just got to get over this little slow stretch that we’re in,” Durant said. ” We’ve got to play defense. That’s the thing. We can’t just let teams come in here and do whatever they want offensively.”
2/26 vs Cavaliers 7:00 PM
2/28 vs Grizzlies 7:00 PM
3/2 vs Bobcats 6:00 PM