The Lakers chased the Oklahoma City Thunder with a late rally but the Thunder held on to win, 114-108.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 36 points, making 10-19 shots from the field and 14-19 from the line. The real damage was done in the first half as Russell Westbrook dominated the game, finishing with 33 points and eight assists.
The Thunder only won a single quarter, taking the second by a 15-point margin (41-26).
The Lakers, playing without Pau Gasol (knees) and Steve Nash (leg), got help from Jodie Meeks off the bench (17 points). Chris Duhon struggled to guard Westbrook, but provided an offensive spark later in the game with 14 points.
Howard had a strong free-throw shooting night, hitting 5-7. Bryant and Howard combined for 11 turnovers.
After taking a punch from the Thunder, the Lakers leveled off to close within 14 by the end of the third. Both teams scored 22 points in the period.
Russell Westbrook's first half left the Lakers puzzled and down 14 at the half. Westbrook hit 10 of 16 shots, including five made three-pointers, to score 27 in just 19 1/2 minutes. He also dished five assists without a turnover.
Dwight Howard's great start (12 points and 11 boards) was an afterthought as the Lakers gave up 41 points in the second quarter.
Kobe Bryant put in 15 on 4-9 shooting but the Lakers shot just 37.8% from the field. Strong free throw shooting (14-17) and rebounding (26 to Oklahoma City's 19) kept the Lakers close for much of the game.
Jodie Meeks scored nine in almost 6 1/2 minutes.
Lakers 27 - Thunder 26 (end of first quarter)