OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the Lakers' once 26-point lead cut to 10 in the waning minutes Saturday, LeBron James scored 11 straight points for L.A. The spurt boosted his total to a season-best 40 points and assured the Lakers one of their best wins of the season, 129-120 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Coming into the night on a four-game losing streak and tweaking the starting lineup before tipoff -- looking like a shell of the team that went 7-0 en route to the in-season tournament championship in the past couple of weeks -- the Lakers made good on the "must win" directive Anthony Davis labeled the game earlier in the week.

James, one week shy of his 39th birthday, became the first player to top 40 points in his 21st season.

1 Related

"We needed this win," James said. "We didn't want to end the road trip in a losing effort. ... To come in here to play versus a team that's been playing extremely well throughout this season, it was a big win for us."

The Thunder, owners of the No. 3 record in the Western Conference, were thwarted by the Lakers' new-look starting lineup that replaced point guard D'Angelo Russell with forward Jarred Vanderbilt -- giving L.A. a big, switchable front line to apply pressure on defense.

L.A. broke things open in the second quarter, outscoring Oklahoma City 35-20 while holding the Thunder to 36.4% shooting in the period.

"Just having that size and physicality out there," Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of the first unit's effectiveness. "Being able to switch on pick-and-rolls, basically 1 through 5, was really, really, really good."

The Lakers' offense was really good, too.

Beyond James' sterling night -- he was 13-for-20 from the field, including a 5-for-5 mark from 3 and 9-for-9 showing from the free throw line -- Davis (26 points) and Rui Hachimura (21 points) also excelled.

The Lakers finished with a season-high 37 assists, putting six players in double-digits, including Russell, who had 15 points in 18 minutes in his first assignment as a substitute.

"The result was a win, so for me, that's all that matters," Russell said. "So just finding a way to impact winning and being energy whenever I get on the floor."

The team credited the focused approach it had for the Thunder game, beginning with Davis' challenge after Thursday's loss to Minnesota and continuing on to shootaround Saturday morning.

"We were so locked in this morning in shootaround," Hachimura said. "We've got to keep doing it. We just got to get into a rhythm and the next one's big, too, the Christmas game against the Celtics."

Focusing on the Christmas matchup with Boston can wait a day, however. James earned himself and his team an off day on Sunday.

"All I care about is tomorrow's day off," James said. "I can give a damn about Monday. The only thing I care about Monday right now is my daughter waking up and opening up her gifts. That's it. Please don't even talk to me about Christmas Day right now. Christmas Eve is what I'm looking forward to. I'm ready to get my ass on this couch."