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Paul George, Russell Westbrook Dominate as Thunder Rout Lonzo Ball-Less Lakers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers' Brandon Ingram, center, and Julius Randle defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The 21-17 Oklahoma City Thunder have experienced plenty of inconsistency this season, but sometimes a pure talent advantage simply wins out in the NBA.

That was the case Wednesday as Russell Westbrook led his team to a straightforward 133-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. He finished with 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds, while Carmelo Anthony added 21 points and Paul George tallied 24 points and three steals.

Even rookie Terrance Ferguson was too much for Los Angeles. He poured in 24 points in the second half while playing out the string of a blowout.

The effort snapped Oklahoma City's two-game losing streak and gave the struggling Lakers their eighth straight defeat.

The win came on the same day Westbrook said his sales pitch to keep George in Oklahoma City after the season will be winning a title, per NBC Los Angeles' Shahan Ahmed. While beating the 11-26 Lakers is not exactly a championship test, it did demonstrate an advantage the Thunder will have over a number of teams down the stretch—three superstars.

Westbrook, George and Anthony combined for 52 points in the first half alone, which was eight more than the entire Lakers team, and minimized the drama down the stretch.

Westbrook set the tone with his ability to slice through the defense in half-court sets or explode in transition anytime he got his hands on the ball. He either set himself or teammates up for easy looks as the Lakers couldn't keep up with their starting point guard still sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The notion of even staying in front of the UCLA product seemed like a lost cause for the home team:

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

Welcome to the Russell Westbrook school of handles. #NBAVote https://t.co/iMnrRwugEJ

It is a stretch to suggest Lonzo Ball's presence on the floor would have made any difference against the defending MVP, but his absence prevented fans from seeing the rookie test his abilities against one of the league's best. He hasn't played since a Dec. 23 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

He wasn't the only injury concern for Los Angeles entering the game.

Brook Lopez made his first appearance since Dec. 18 after dealing with an ankle injury and finished with 10 points and five rebounds, although he didn't start and watched the Lakers jump out to a 10-0 lead with all the points coming from the frontcourt of Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma.

That was the last time Los Angeles held momentum, as Oklahoma City tied things by the end of the first and quickly seized control with a 63-44 halftime lead. Westbrook was running the show, but Anthony scored all his points before intermission while George did the heavy lifting on defense.

Things were such a breeze for the formidable threesome George even had time to show love to his parents on the sideline:

NBA @NBA

Paul George hits the jumper then greets his parents on the sideline! #ThisIsWhyWePlay https://t.co/t0Jb79WeEU

Westbrook, Anthony and George all called it an early night against an overmatched foe, which opened the door for Ferguson to put on a show in the second half with a game-high six three-pointers and a couple of rim-rattling jams:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

WELCOME TO THE TERRANCE FERGUSON SHOW 😬 https://t.co/PoO33RpwxT

To call Wednesday's performance from Los Angeles lackluster would be an understatement even if Kuzma did score a team-high 18 points, but it is all about the future at this point.

The rookie forward again showed flashes as a potential go-to scorer, and it is not difficult to envision a scenario where Ball returns and the young nucleus eventually develops into a playoff contender in the coming years. Still, the gap between Los Angeles and the upper echelon of the Western Conference was apparent again with the Thunder in the building.

Oklahoma City will remain in the building Thursday and face the Los Angeles Clippers in a back-to-back, while the Lakers will face the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

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