Final Score: Thunder bombard Lakers 114-108

Brett Deering

Russell Westbrook put the Los Angeles Lakers in an early hole with an unstoppable array of outside shots, and the Lakers just couldn't recover.

It is not impossible to beat a team that is better than you (and the Oklahoma City Thunder are most certainly better than a Los Angeles Lakers squad missing two of their four superstars). But you need a few things to happen when you are on the wrong side of the talent equation: You need to avoid mistakes. You need to execute your offense well. You need to play smart team defense. Oh, and one other thing ... you need the other team not to go batshit crazy from the outside.

The Lakers did not avoid mistakes, ending the game with 17 turnovers. They didn't execute their offense particularly well, with only 16 assists. And their team defense didn't really mean much, because the other team did, in fact, go batshit crazy from the outside. Actually, not even the whole team. It was just one dude. In the first half, Russell Westbrook was unstoppable. Not for a Lakers team who hasn't employed a strong point guard defender since the Mesozoic Era. Not for any team in the league. It didn't last the entire game, but it didn't have to. Russ scored 27 points in the first half, hitting 5-7 three pointers along the way (those five treys were a career high, by the way, and he set it before halftime). And the Lakers were down 14 after playing a decent half of basketball.

The 2nd half was a roller coaster affair in which the Lakers flirted with getting blown out, but ended up making the final score respectable. Ironically, this was a game that could have been had if the Lakers could have remained patient on the offensive side of the ball, trusting in the inevitable cool down of the Thunder's outside shooting display. But, teams that are down by double digits the entire second half tend to press a little bit, and the Lakers' pressing did them a disservice when it came to creating quality shots and making the quality shots created.

The Lakers are now 9-11, and that is a troubling fact. But tonight's loss shouldn't be all that troubling, and it is a loss that probably would have happened even if the Lakers had started the season 17-3. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a very good team, one of the league's best, and you aren't going to beat them very often when you spot them a 15 point lead. Tonight, there wasn't a team in the NBA that could have prevented them being spotted a 15 point lead. Russ Westbrook could get the shots he took in the first half tonight any night he wants. There's a reason why he doesn't. He's a good player, a great player, one of the league's five or ten best. But he's not THAT good.

So it goes.



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