James Harden and the Thunder drew first blood. (Larry W. Smith/AP)

But it was all downhill from there for the Los Angeles Lakers. With typically strong nights from their All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and better ball handling, Oklahoma City ran the Lakers out of the gym with a 119-90 win — or a right hook to the jaw of an already wounded foe.

After an eight-day break following their first-round sweep of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, the Thunder needed no time to regain their form. Meantime the Lakers looked spent after going a full seven games against Denver.

And as for that World Peace-James Harden matchup? The Thunder got the better end of that one, too, as Harden scored 17 points — nine coming from the free throw line — to World Peace’s 12 despite playing eight fewer minutes.

But while Durant (25 points, 8 rebounds) and Westbrook (27 points, 9 assists) were on their games, the most striking number on Oklahoma City’s stat sheet was 4 — the number of turnovers they committed after averaging more than 16 during the regular season.

“I think that’s huge,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Four — we’ve had that in the first six minutes of games at times.”

Westbrook’s 9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio was particularly encouraging for a player who averaged 3.3 giveaways in the regular season.

“I just feel a little more experienced,” Westbrook told The Oklahoman. “I feel a lot more comfortable. My teammates do a great job of getting me open and getting me to the spots where I can be effective.”

Despite the lop-sided loss, the Lakers have shown a propensity for short-term memory loss this postseason. They trailed by as many as 28 points in their Game 6 loss to the Nuggets but rallied late to take Game 7. After the Game 6 defeat, Kobe Bryant called out his teammates for a lack of effort and toughness.

Bryant and the Lakers must regroup yet again. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

But can the Lakers do enough to win the series? Or is this Thunder team simply too good not to return to the Western Conference finals?

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