Published March 06, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – There are times when coach Scott Brooks figures the best way to get his Oklahoma City Thunder to stop turning the ball over is to simply stop talking about the problem in the hope it goes away.
For at least one night, the Thunder's turnover trouble almost vanished — and in record-setting fashion.
Russell Westbrook had 37 points and 10 rebounds, Kevin Durant scored 26, and Oklahoma City tied the NBA record with only two turnovers in a 122-105 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night in which Kobe Bryant hurt his elbow and the Lakers fell back below .500.
"It was just one of those games. We didn't turn the ball over," Brooks said, struggling to explain how the team that committed the most turnovers in the NBA last season and the second-most so far this season pulled off the feat.
"I mean, it's only happened a few times in NBA history."
Westbrook had one of the miscues, getting called for traveling in the fourth quarter to keep Oklahoma City from holding the record outright. Ronnie Brewer had the other on a pass to Nick Collison that went out of bounds.
Otherwise, it was a clean game right down to a 12-0 run to finish it as the Lakers cut an 18-point deficit down to five before going scoreless over the final 6 minutes.
Milwaukee set the turnovers record in a game against Indiana on April 1, 2006, and Cleveland tied it in an overtime game against Portland on March 19, 2009.
"I think we've done a great job of just learning and trying to get better at it each and every game. Not really focusing on it but just making the right decisions," said Westbrook, who had the most turnovers in the league his first two seasons in the NBA.
Bryant scored 30 points after leaving the game briefly in the first quarter with a right elbow injury, and Steve Nash matched his season's best with 20 points as the Lakers went below .500 again after reaching the mark for the first time since December. Nash's 3-pointer got Los Angeles within 110-105 with 6:14 remaining, but his team didn't score again.
The Lakers missed their first 10 shots of the game and their last 10, outscoring the Thunder by 21 points in between the two droughts. Los Angeles fell to 1-11 in road games against the teams that currently occupy the eight Western Conference playoff spots and is now 2½ games behind eighth-place Utah.
"You can always try to find positive things with anything," Bryant said. "But for us right now, we've got to get some wins."
Bryant said he took a shot to the "button" on the end of his elbow and had to figure out a way to adjust his shooting mechanics to deal with what the team called an ulnar nerve contusion.
"Every time you try to bend your elbow or extend it, there's a little resistance and there's a lot of pain," Bryant said.
For a team that has already spent parts of this season without Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol — all of them All-Stars — the news wasn't all that bad for the Lakers.
"I'm going to keep playing," Bryant said. "This is the critical part of the season."
After Nash's 3-pointer got the Lakers within five, Nash and Metta World Peace each missed 3s during a string of four straight fruitless possessions with the Lakers down by six. Serge Ibaka, who dodged a suspension after delivering a low blow against Blake Griffin in Oklahoma City's previous game, hit a 3-pointer and Westbrook had a steal and a two-handed slam in the Thunder's closing run.
World Peace finished with 16 points and Howard had six points and 16 rebounds before fouling out with 2:24 remaining.
By the time Bryant went out less than 4 minutes into the game, the Thunder had already delivered an opening 7-0 burst and would never relinquish the lead.
Bryant air-balled his first shot from 3-point range and was grabbing at the elbow, even crossing up arms with Durant after he had stolen the ball. Bryant was able to return about 4½ minutes later, making his first shot a left-handed hook. He dribbled predominantly with his left hand and even snagged one rebound by cradling it in his left arm.
But he wouldn't join an injured list that includes Gasol, out two to four more weeks with a foot injury, and reserve Jordan Hill, out for the season after hip surgery.
"Obviously we've had a lot of injuries and a lot of adversity, but we can't stop," Nash said. "We've got to keep fighting no matter what happens and try to turn this into something."
NOTES: Durant got his 13th technical foul of the season, three shy of an automatic one-game suspension. Durant, who was on the bench at the time, drew the technical after saying something to referee Joe Crawford as Derek Fisher returned to the sideline for a timeout after getting his own technical from referee Kevin Fehr. Fisher was arguing a personal foul called against Kendrick Perkins. "All I asked him verbatim was, 'Can I talk to you?' and he got me with one," Durant said. "The way the game was going, I'm sure he was just trying to control everything and make sure nothing outrageous would happen, I guess. Joey's a good ref, I respect him a lot, but hopefully that gets rescinded." ... Oklahoma City has not played a home game decided by less than 10 points since Dec. 28. The Thunder's last 12 wins at Chesapeake Energy Arena were by at least 16 points — and an average of 24.6 points. Their two losses were by 17 to Brooklyn and 10 to Miami. ... The NBA announced Tuesday that both teams will play preseason games overseas in the fall. Oklahoma City will face Fenerbahce in Istanbul and Philadelphia in Manchester, England. The Lakers will play Golden State twice, in Beijing and Shanghai. ... The Thunder led 71-55 after their highest-scoring first half of the season.