Sports / Basketball

Thunder roars during Kobe's last road game

By Associated Press In Oklahoma City (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-13 08:03

Oklahoma City Thunder fans made some big noise after flocking to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night to see Kobe Bryant one last time.

They ended up getting a show from their own stars.

Kevin Durant scored 34 points and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime to help the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-79 in the final road game of Bryant's brilliant 20-year career.

Kobe looked vintage in the first quarter with 13 points, but he went scoreless the rest of the way.

Westbrook had his league-leading 18th triple-double of the season, and the 37th of his career. He finished with 13 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

"I haven't seen anybody get triple-doubles as much as he has in a season," Bryant said.

"That's pretty outrageous, what he's been able to do all year long. It seems to fly under the radar with what Steph (Curry) is doing at Golden State and what they're doing as a team, but he's having a historical season.

"He's probably the most athletic player I've ever played against."

Westbrook was honored to be a part of Bryant's last road trip.

"It was very special for me, man," he said.

"Growing up in LA, a young boy watching the Lakers and watching him kind of take over the town, and to be here now, in the NBA, being a part of his last road game is something very special to me.

"It's a blessing. It's something I never take for granted."

Plenty of Lakers fans lined up at the arena more than two hours before the start, and the crowd chanted Bryant's name as they waited during pregame warmups.

The Thunder honored him with a video before the tip.

Westbrook finished the first half with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Thunder led 58-48 at the break.

He clinched the triple-double on an assist to Anthony Morrow for a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left in the second quarter.

Durant scored 16 points during a 26-6 run to start the second half, and the Thunder led 89-61 at the end of the third quarter.

Bryant sat down for good in the third quarter. In the fourth, the crowd repeatedly chanted "We want Kobe!" but the Thunder had the game well in hand.

Lakers coach Byron Scott was concerned about keeping Bryant healthy for the season finale on Wednesday against Utah, so he didn't consider returning him to the floor.


Oklahoma G Buddy Hield, who led the Sooners to the Final Four, sat in the front row. Bryant watched when Hield scored 37 points in the Sooners' Elite Eight win against Oregon.


Bryant, on how he's similar to Westbrook: "I didn't smile much on the court, either. He plays the game with such an energy and such aggressiveness. It needs to be appreciated."

Resurgent Rockets blast back into playoff race

Houston Rockets have scripted a stunning turnaround to stand one win away from salvaging their once-shaky playoff hopes following a tumultuous season.

With Monday's 129-105 blowout victory over Minnesota and Utah's loss to Dallas, the Rockets (40-41) climbed back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

They can clinch a post-season berth with a victory against Sacramento in the season finale on Wednesday.

It's a small consolation for a franchise that reached the conference finals a year ago, but considering Houston appeared buried late last week, the Rockets will gladly take the turnaround.

"The fire under us, it is lit," Rockets guard Patrick Beverley said after he helped the team win a second straight game to catch Utah (40-41).

"This is not how we wanted it to be at the end of the season, but better late than never." The dream of repeating last season's success was deflated early when the Rockets lost their first three games by 20 points each.

Team leader James Harden struggled out of the gate as there were rumblings he showed up out of shape for the campaign.

Coach Kevin McHale was fired after just 11 games, with the team 4-7, and replaced by assistant J.B. Bickerstaff - but that did little to fix the team's troubles.

The defensive efforts of Harden and a lack of chemistry between him and center Dwight Howard were just some of the questions surrounding the team.

After their third defeat in four games last Thursday, the Rockets trailed eighth-place Utah by a game and a half with just three remaining.

The Jazz sputtered with a pair of last-second defeats last week that aided Houston, and now the Rockets are positioned to crawl into the playoffs and make the best of a rocky season.

"We control our own destiny. It's our playoffs right now," Harden said. "It's our last game (Wednesday) and we have to go out there and win. We'll figure out everything else once the game is over."

 Thunder roars during Kobe's last road game

A fan expresses his support for LA Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant during the first quarter of Monday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. In what was Bryant's last road appearance before he draws the curtain on a 20-year career, the Thunder rolled to a 112-79 victory.J Pat Carter / Agence France Presse

(China Daily 04/13/2016 page23)

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