The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night, sending the Lakers down to 11th place in the Western Conference standings. The best offense in the league looked every bit the part, but the Lakers? At times they look as if they still haven't read the script and were on a drunken Lindsay Lohan binge. After one quarter of play the Lakers actually led by a single point, riding a strong start from Dwight Howard who had 10 rebounds in the first quarter. It looked as if the Lakers were going to at the very least put up a fight against the Thunder. Which, in the end, they did.
But as it goes with these Lakers, they gave up another 40+ point quarter, this one coming in the 2nd, after doing as well as they could have hoped to open the game. It's incredibly difficult to win a game of basketball when a team is dropping close to HALF the amount of points teams score in an entire game in a single 12 minute stretch and the Thunder offense was rolling in the first half.
Russell Westbrook could do no wrong through the first 24 minutes. If Scott Brooks had asked him to part the Red Sea he would have done so with one hand while he still put up threes with the other. Seriously, someone needed to pull Russell aside and ask him to step off the court and handle a few global issues. Starting with worldwide hunger, Westbrook would have put the world in a better place while becoming one of history's most beloved figures.
Unfortunately for the Lakers he stayed on the hardwood, though, and ended the half with 27 points. The Lakers lost a single quarter in this game. They had the advantage in both the 1st and 4th quarter, and tied the 3rd, but the 2nd quarter is where the game got away from them. A 15 point differential in the 2nd quarter in a game that was just out of striking distance as it came to an end and it's clear this game was won in the first half by the Thunder.
Westbrook had nothing near the first half show he put on in the second, but he still made plays down the stretch for his team. This was a monstrous performance from him that's final tally comes in at 33 point and 8 assists. To no one's surprise, while Westbrook cooled off in the second half, Kevin Durant picked up the slack and kept the Thunder ahead of the Lakers. Westbrook was the big ticket show, but Durant still had 36 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists as the Lakers were at best at arms length away from Durant and the Thunder.
And, have you seen his reach? Kevin Durant has long freakin' arms.
In the preview I pointed to the defense getting stops and the offense taking advantage of the opportunities. On this night, however, offense and defense did not unite. The Thunder's scorching hot (my TV stand melted) first half performance scaled back drastically in the second half, but the Lakers struggled to score. With Oklahoma City having empty trips the Lakers needed to pick away at the 14 point spread. But they couldn't. Turnovers once again plagued the Lakers, letting the Thunder off the hook for 17 possessions, and the purple and gold never covered enough ground to put themselves in position to win this game.
Dwight Howard gave the ball away 6 times which is unacceptable. He played a solid game, using a handful of post moves to help him on his path to 23 points while also grabbing 18 boards, but those turnovers are killing the Lakers. A travel, an offensive foul, a strip from the Thunder, a step out of bounds. Kobe Bryant was only slightly better, giving it up 5 times to the Thunder, and now that's 11 turnovers between two players. Bryant has the most turnovers in the league right now at 77 and Howard is in the top 10 with 65. Yes, it's a "new system" with "new players", but there also needs to be individual accountability for individual carelessness.
The Lakers did make ground on the Thunder, however, through the 4th quarter. Too little, too late, though. Bryant's 35 points and 7 assists weren't enough to carry the team, even with Jodie Meeks having a great all around game. D'Antoni took another shot at finding a lineup that produces for him, throwing Meeks in at point guard in the second half. Jodie responded with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and great effort on the defensive side of the ball. Devin Ebanks played a miserable game of basetball and continues to look like a huge detriment to the team. Going into the season with Ebanks as the only backup small forward on the roster was a gamble the Lakers took and thus far the chips are looking down on this one.
Hats off to the Thunder who played exactly as billed. Hot shooting, flying up and down the court, and two supremely gifted basketball talents in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (who went batshit crazy as C.A. Clark wrote). Thunder put the Lakers back where they left them, bleeding on the floor, with a 114-108 loss for the Lakers to take in.
The bright side, and transformation of this to a moral victory, is that the Lakers didn't have Steve Nash or Pau Gasol with them. The lack of point guard production was glaring as the Thunder gave Duhon and Morris space to operate and either point guard did next to nothing with it. Duhon had 14 points on 4-7 shooting from deep but was hardly a threat off the dribble. Inserting Meeks as the point guard was worth a kick to the tires, but he isn't exactly a dribbling demon himself. In fact, our very own Ben Rosales wants a shock collar to jolt him when he does anything besides catch and shoot. Someday, hopefully soon, both the Spaniard and the Canadian come to save the day. Till then the Lakers offense still looks like it needs it's hand held. This loss could have been much worse than it wound up being, but on that same note, it looks much better than it was. In a game that the Lakers had nothing to lose it feels as if they broke even as they fly home in preparation for Sunday's game against the Utah Jazz. Till then; good fight, good night.
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- Check out Welcome to Loud City as they celebrate the almighty Russell Westbrook who led them to victory in the first half.
|Final - 12.7.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Lakers||27||26||22||33||108|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||26||41||22||25||114|