The return of Kobe Bryant has not proven a panacea for the Los Angeles Lakers, who were thumped 122-97 by National Basketball Association Western Conference rivals Oklahoma City on Friday.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 31 points and added eight rebounds and five assists for the Thunder, who have won all 11 of their home games this season.
Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook both had double-doubles. Ibaka scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Westbrook scored 19 points and delivered 12 assists.
Reggie Jackson chipped in 19 points off the bench for the Thunder, who notched their 13th victory in their past 14 games.
The Lakers fell to 0-3 since Bryant returned last week for the first time since tearing his left Achilles tendon in April.
Bryant finished with 13 assists, but turned the ball over seven times and scored just four points in just more than 23 minutes.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said it would take time for Bryant to find his top form and to balance his duties as scoring threat with those of a point guard keeping the Lakers offense going.
Bryant has inherited the latter role, with all three of the Lakers’ true point guards — Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake — on the injured list.
“He’s got to do both,” D’Antoni said of Bryant’s dual role as scorer and distributor. “And he knows that. He’ll get better every game, I think he’s gotten better every game.”
D’Antoni also praised big man Pau Gasol, whose publicly expressed concerns about his role in the offense were greeted this week by an admonition from D’Antoni just to “play harder.”
“I thought Pau played well tonight,” D’Antoni said of the Spaniard, who scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “He was aggressive, which we have to have.”
Nick Young drained four three-pointers en route to a team-high 17 points for the Lakers, who have allowed 100 or more points in six straight games.
Defensively, D’Antoni said, his team needs to be “tougher, saltier, grittier.”
A fast-break layup by Bryant brought the Lakers within 25-20 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. However, a four-point play from Durant highlighted an 11-2 Thunder run that gave the hosts a 14-point cushion.
Oklahoma City’s 38 first-quarter points were the team’s most in any quarter this season.
The Thunder led 66-51 at halftime and 94-74 going into the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good team and they just beat us,” D’Antoni said.