By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder appeared to be on their way to their lofty preseason expectations during an eight-game win streak.
Then they hit another rough patch.
Oklahoma City dropped its fourth straight game Sunday when Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Julius Randle added 19, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 108-104 victory.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said the team won’t panic.
“Me personally, I love adversity,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to bring your teammates together and bring everybody together. Looking forward to positive things. Throughout this season there is going to be a lot of ups and downs, but we never flinch. That’s one thing about this organization and about our team — we never flinch. We are always going to stay together.”
Westbrook scored 36 points and Paul George had 26, but Oklahoma City struggled on defense again. The Thunder have dropped four of five since losing defensive stopper Andre Roberson to a season-ending left patellar tendon injury.
Of particular concern, the Lakers made 13 3-pointers.
“That’s where Andre Roberson is great, maybe the best I’ve ever seen, of being able to close down on top of shooters and get them to bounce it and then also guard it,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “But we’ve got to be able to do a better job.”
Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points and Brandon Ingram added 16 for the Lakers, who have won six of eight.
The Lakers had lost 11 straight in Oklahoma City.
“I was most proud of the way that we engaged ourselves in the fight this time,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Again, we went off to a good start where we were competing back and forth and this time, we sustained it for much longer.”
The Lakers carried an 82-79 lead into the fourth quarter. Westbrook checked back in with the Lakers leading 87-84 and just over eight minutes remaining. The Lakers went up 98-90 on a fast-break layup by Josh Hart.
Ingram made a layup for the Lakers and George fouled him. George argued the call and was issued a technical foul with 3:32 left. Ingram and Clarkson each made a free throw to give Los Angeles a 10-point lead.
A 3-pointer by George trimmed the Lakers’ lead to 107-104 with 24.7 seconds to play. Randle was fouled with 17.9 seconds left, and he made the first of two free throws. Westbrook missed a long 3-pointer, and the Lakers pulled down the rebound to escape.
“Don’t give into the fact this is a long road trip and we are playing against a really good team,” Walton said. “Enjoy it. Enjoy the challenge. Our guys did a really good job of sticking together and really fighting that one out.”
Lakers: G Lonzo Ball missed his 10th straight game with a sore left knee. … Walton was called for a technical foul late in the first quarter. … Lopez made 4 of 9 3-pointers. … Hart had 14 points and 11 rebounds. … F Kyle Kuzma, the team’s leading scorer, finished with two points in 16 minutes.
Thunder: F Carmelo Anthony had six rebounds in the first quarter. He finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. … Anthony and C Steven Adams were called for technicals in the third quarter. … Made just 7 of 25 3-pointers.
Oklahoma City outrebounded the Lakers 28-13 in the second half and still couldn’t make up ground. That’s because the Thunder allowed the Lakers to shoot 55 percent in the second half, including 50 percent from 3-point range.
“We are at a little rough patch right now,” Anthony said. “We will be fine. It’s not something to start overacting about and start pointing fingers and trying to figure out exactly what is going on. We know what’s going on. We are the only ones who are going to be able to fix it.”
Lakers: Host Phoenix on Tuesday.
Thunder: Play at Golden State on Tuesday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
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