Lakers Vs. Thunder: Kobe Bryant Relies On Defense To Close The Door On Oklahoma City

Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers past the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday 90-87 in the teams' first match-up in the Sooner State since that thrilling Game 6 in last year's playoffs. Kobe didn't lead the Lakers in scoring, actually; his 17 points were fewer than Pau Gasol's 18. But, per usual, Kobe did lead the Lakers in terms of insisting that he -- not a teammate -- decide the game.

Bryant played the entire fourth quarter (a rarity), and took 11 of the team's 17 field goal attempts in the period (not terribly rare). He also committed two of the team's three turnovers, one an offensive foul that James Harden sold like snake oil. Bryant scored seven points on 11 FGAs; the rest of his team scored 11 on seven. Harden and Thabo Sefolosha played solid defense on Kobe all night, and Kobe didn't care he kept taking those tough turnaround jumpers (one of three of which fall), determined to settle the game himself.

In the end, Andrew Bynum's strong help defense (five blocks, including a ridiculous rejection on a 18-foot jumper by 6-10 Serge Ibaka in the fourth) and Ron Artest's defense on Kevin Durant (who shot 8-20) gave L.A. just enough to hold off the kids. But Kobe almost shot L.A. out of this game. If Russell Westbrook had hit a couple of clean looks late, it's a different result and a different mood. The champs survived this one.

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