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The Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant shoots over the Los Angeles Lakers' Wesley Johnson (11) in the first quarter at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Durant's big finish finishes off Lakers for OKC, 107-103

LOS ANGELES--The Los Angeles Lakers won't tank, according to General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

But they're certainly not winning any time soon, finding a new way to lose Thursday.

The Lakers scared the Oklahoma City Thunder for almost 48 minutes before falling, 107-103, heading into the All-Star break tied with Sacramento for dead last in the Western Conference.

They also set a team record with a seventh consecutive home loss, the latest low in a season filled with them at Staples Center.

Kevin Durant scored 19 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter as the Thunder made up a 14-point deficit.

Before the Lakers fell to 18-35, Kupchak tried to deflect the concept of tanking, of losing on purpose to improve draft position.

But when you suit up only eight players because seven are injured, the inevitable slowly takes over despite 14 points and 17 assists from Kendall Marshall. And 19 points apiece from Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman.

"Winning is never a bad thing," Kupchak said a few minutes before tipoff. "If you try to manipulate the draft, I'm not a karma guy, but if you try to manipulate this thing, it never works out the way you think it's going to work out.

"You're better off doing what you know is the right thing to do and whatever happens happened for the right reason. And that's our approach."

Despite the lack of success, Kupchak gave another vote of confidence to Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni.

"Under very trying circumstances, I think he's done a great job," Kupchak said. "Our players continue to play as hard as possible and compete in every game.

"After games, if we do lose, their heads go down and they're upset. There's no music playing, there's no guys walking out of the locker room with a hop in their step. It bothers them to lose."

Steve Nash did not play Thursday because of nerve damage in his back, meaning he appeared in only 60 of the Lakers' 135 games since being acquired from Phoenix for two first-round draft picks. He has one more year on his contract for $9.7 million.

Kupchak declined to second-guess the ill-fated trade, saying he "absolutely" would have done it 10 times out of 10.

"No regrets," Kupchak said. "You have to recognize where you are as a franchise. We felt we had a two-year window, maybe three, to go for a championship, and that's what we did.

"Looking back on it, which nobody can do, that's a different story. But at the time, we knew exactly what we were doing."

Despite not having Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and four other players, the Lakers hung in against the Thunder (43-12), which holds the league's best record.

"We played with a lot of energy that got us through most of the game," Steve Blake said before frowning at the Lakers' 23 turnovers. "Against a great team like that, you start to turn the ball over, there's no way you can win."

It basically came down to free throws. The Thunder made 21 of 24. The Lakers made 13 of 22.

Kaman was fouled while scoring on a spinning layup, but his missed free throw kept the Thunder ahead by one with 22.5 seconds left.

Derek Fisher made two free throws a few seconds later to give the Thunder a three-point lead, but Steve Blake missed one of two free throws with 13.6 seconds left.

Durant made two from the line with 11.6 seconds to play, giving the Thunder a four-point edge and effectively ending the game.

Durant had his eighth 40-point game of the season despite making only three of 13 three-point attempts.

And with that, the Lakers lost again, a sublime 24 games behind Oklahoma City in the West standings.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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