STAR basketball player, Tanzanian Hasheem Thabeet, filled in admirably for a foul-plagued Kendrick Perkins as Oklahoma City Thunder held off a second-half charge to beat improving Lakers 122-105 on Tuesday night.
Desperately trying to fight their way into the play-offs during an injury-marred season, the Los Angeles Lakers got no sympathy from the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the lone NBA player from Tanzania, Thabeet, turning in a superb defensive performance to finally prove his potential.
Kobe Bryant was able to score 30 points after returning from the injury, but a late rally fizzled as the Thunder scored the final 12 points of the game. Kevin Durant and Westbrook did the heavy lifting offensively as the duo combined for 63 points, 19 rebounds, ten assists, five steals and three blocks, but without the other contributors; the Thunder might not have been victorious.
Seemingly every time the Lakers made a run, a different Thunder player stepped up and made a big play. Whether it was Thabeet snagging an extra offensive possession for the Thunder by grabbing a rebound, Derek Fisher knocking down shots from the outside or Reggie Jackson slicing through the lane and powerfully finishing at the rim, the Thunder's complementary pieces made winning basketball plays.
"I think our bench was really good tonight," Durant said. "Fish came in and made some good shots, Reggie was great on the pick and roll, Hasheem had a really great game, so our bench was really good and gave us the lift we needed when the first group struggled a little bit.
It was a good win." "A lot of guys stepped up. I thought Brewer's minutes were good. Hash's (Thabeet) were good. Fish (Fisher) made big shots, Reggie (Jackson) was really good finishing around the basket and he got the nice dunk. Russell, Kevin--you can just go down the list.
The guys made big plays defensively,' said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "(We were) just playing team defence," Westbrook said. "I think we did a good job of cutting off the isolations, scrambling and just playing Thunder defence." The Thunder led from start to finish, letting their 18-point lead get whittled down to five midway through the fourth quarter.
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 two-handed slam in the Thunder's closing run.
The 7'3â€³, 25 year old, Thabeet was picked up in July as on a league minimum contract. His basketball IQ is growing game by game and the appreciation from the Thunder faithful came to a climax on Tuesday night.