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LOS ANGELES - Thunder guards Kyle Weaver and Russell Westbrook faced the toughest challenge of their rookie seasons Tuesday night in Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

The bad news is Bryant scored a game-high 34 points to lead Los Angeles to a 105-98 win over Oklahoma City at Staples Center.

The good news is the Thunder's rookie tandem will never face a more daunting or dynamic player.

Bryant hit 13 of 26 shots in 36 minutes. But he scored only 12 points after halftime, going 4-for-10 from the field and 0-for-3 from the 3-point line.

For a young team looking to establish defense as its identity, the Thunder couldn't find a more skilled offensive player in the game than Bryant to school two of its key young players.

"I thought they did a very good job," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "You're talking about the best player in Basketball, arguably one of the best players ever, and they took the challenge. I didn't see them back down."

Weaver, in only his sixth start of the season, drew the first assignment of defending Bryant. And Bryant attacked from the start, scoring 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting in the first quarter.

But Weaver had a hand in Bryant's face on each of his jumpers and played solid defense without the help of a double team.

"It's going to give him confidence and help him grow," said Kevin Durant, who scored a team-high 31 points and had 10 rebounds.

"Playing against the best player you only can learn things. I'm excited for Kyle. He played well and he helped us out a lot of different ways."

Weaver scored a career-high 11 points to go with four rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot. Proving he was unfazed by the head-to-head matchup, Weaver scored seven points with three rebounds in the first quarter.

The most impressive defensive play by Weaver came with 8:09 left in the third quarter when he baited Bryant into a traveling violation by slowly backing off the Lakers guard as he attempted to back Weaver down.

"I'm just going to take everything I can from that and learn from it," Weaver said. "Any little thing that I can take from that I definitely want to try to use that to my advantage."

The loss can be viewed as another step in the right direction for the Thunder, which went on the road and hung with the league's best team.

The Thunder, however, couldn't overcome the Lakers' 56-46 rebounding advantage, which included a 16-10 edge on the offensive end. It led to 21 Laker second-chance points to the Thunder's 12 and helped L.A. outscore Oklahoma City 54-36 in the paint.

"It was a great effort, but playing against the best team in Basketball it has to be a flawless effort," Brooks said. "We didn't have that, but we played hard."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: February 13, 2009


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