Lou Williams exploded for a career-high 44 points, including 23 in the fourth quarter to key an L.A. rally, but Oklahoma City escaped with a 117–113 road victory.
The 2015 Sixth Man of the Year became just the fifth player this season to score 44 or more points in a game, joining perennial All-Stars Stephen Curry (53, 46, 44), James Harden (50, 46, 45), Russell Westbrook (48) and Paul George (48).
Williams, who moved into the Lakers’ starting lineup in December, shot 12-of-25 and 5-of-14 from deep. His scoring outburst smashed his previous career-high of 36 points on Nov. 22, 2014, as a member of the Raptors against the Cavaliers.
“I was just making shots,” Williams said. “Down the stretch, I made one, I made two, get some free throws. Things kind of snowballed from there. My approach was the same as it always is.”
Indeed, Williams’s career night was aided by a perfect 15-of-15 from the line.
“My game has changed, it’s evolved over the years,” Williams said. “I’m not as athletic as I used to be. I can’t play above the rim like I once did when I first came into the league. After 2012 or 2013, when I had my ACL tear … I wanted to create a different way [to score]. I started learning how to draw fouls, create contact and use my reputation as a scorer to bait guys.”
The 11-year pro credited former teammate Allen Iverson with helping inspire his foul-drawing abilities.
“I played with A.I.,” Williams said. “He’s King Foul. … I was able to take the way he played and use that for me.”
In the fourth quarter, Williams scored 23 of the Lakers’ 28 points, including the team’s first 12 points of the period.
“He kept us in the game and he was on fire,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “The guys did a really good job of setting screens for him where he could get to the sweet spot.”
Kobe Bryant, not Williams, got the nod on the Lakers’ final possession. Bryant’s contested runner over Kevin Durant wound up short, as Bryant pleaded for a foul call that never came.
“He got in a great groove,” Bryant said of Williams. “His pull-up jumper started working. He started getting to the basket, drawing contact. He just got in a fantastic rhythm.”
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 36 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Durant added 24 points and seven rebounds in the win.
Oklahoma City improved to 26–11. L.A. fell to 8–30.