OKLAHOMA CITY - The Los Angeles Lakers aren't sure what to expect when they see the Oklahoma City Thunder with playoff nemesis Kendrick Perkins in the lineup next time.
Until then, they’re doing their best to build up a cushion in the Western Conference standings.
Pau Gasol had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Kobe Bryant scored 17 points, and the Lakers firmed up their grasp on third place in the Western Conference by beating the Thunder, 90-87, on Sunday.
“They’re a dangerous team now, they’re a very good team now and probably Perkins is going to help them, especially in the playoffs,” Gasol said. “But we’ll see. That has to be seen and proven.”
Andrew Bynum added 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers still weren’t able to simply overpower a Thunder team that added Perkins for interior toughness but won’t get him in the lineup for a couple weeks due to a sprained left knee.
Perkins helped Boston beat L.A. for the 2008 title and the Celtics were up 3-2 in last year’s finals before he got hurt.
“Kendrick will obviously provide great muscle inside, and he’s the best low-post defender we have in the game, so it’s a welcome addition for them, I’m sure,” Bryant said.
Lamar Odom missed a pair of free throws with 10.9 seconds left to leave the door open for Oklahoma City, but Kevin Durant and James Harden each missed 3-pointers from the top of the key in the closing moments.
The Thunder has lost three straight games for the first time all season. Only San Antonio, Boston and Chicago have made it this far without a losing streak of at least three games.
“Once I let it go, I thought it was good. It rimmed in and out,” Durant said. “I felt the same way for James.
“These last couple games, it’s felt like nothing has gone our way, but we’ve got to keep pushing, keep fighting and stay positive.”
Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City with 22 points and Durant scored 21 while being hounded most of the time by Ron Artest. The Thunder was held to a season-low 31 second-half points and scored only 13 in its least productive third quarter of the season.