NEW YORK: The Los Angeles Lakers were looking to make a statement.
After climbing to within two games of the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, they needed a victory over one of the elite teams to prove they were for real.
The Lakers (30-11) found that test in Oklahoma City (44-16), the defending conference champions. Even though a battered and beat up LA squad fought down to the final minutes, they still fell 122-105 on Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook had a game-high 37 points on 15-for-29 shooting. He also racked up 10 rebounds and five assists. Kevin Durant added 26 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Kobe Bryant paced LA with 30 points and was 11-for-12 from the charity stripe. Steve Nash kicked in 20 points and Metta World Peace added 16 in the defeat.
The Denver Nuggets won their sixth consecutive game by scrapping out a 120-113 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena.
The Nuggets (40-22) became just the fourth Western Conference team to reach the 40-win mark and improved to 14-19 on the road.
The Kings (21-41), meanwhile, dropped 15-14 at home.
Avery Bradley scored a season-high 22 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 at Wells Fargo Centre.
Paul Pierce had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for Boston (32-27), who won their third consecutive game. Kevin Garnett also scored 18 points, as the Celtics shot 50.6 per cent from the field, including 11 for 19 from 3-point range. They also overcame 22 turnovers.
Thaddeus Young had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers (23-36), who lost for the ninth time in 10 games. Evan Turner chipped in 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Jrue Holiday had 18 points and 10 assists.
Results: Boston 109 Philadelphia 101, Oklahoma City 122 LA Lakers 105, Denver 120 Sacramento 113. Reuters