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Starring: Russell Westbrook putting the Thunder on his back. Russell Westbrook is a bad, bad man. With his team struggling to score in the first half, shooting 35% from the field, the volatile point guard poured in 17 points in the third. That was enough to hold off the Lakers, who despite putting up a great effort in the first half, fell apart in the third:

Offensively, they had a miserable time generating good looks, lacking both Gasol's scoring ability and also his skill as a high-post passer, someone able to move the defense, create space for cutters and actually deliver the ball. Without him, OKC aggressively attacked the perimeter and made it tough for the Lakers to get entry passes or run the pick and roll (another place losing Gasol hurt). On the other end, losing Pau's mobility against the high screen and as an interior defender was a major problem, particularly as Westbrook gained momentum. The Lakers are a far different team defensively with only one high-end 7-footer available.

Still, all was not lost. The Lakers put together a decent fourth quarter, with Metta World Peace getting hot behind the arc, and Gasol back in the game. The lead was cut down to 7 at one point, but the Lakers ran out of time to mount a comeback. This game showed the Lakers how much work they need to do if they want to advance deep in the playoffs. Mike Brown has a lot of decisions to make in terms of his rotations. How is he going to get any meaningful production without the big three in at the same time? Right now, the Thunder are acting like the big dogs in the West, they talk trash, they scowl, and they pound their chests. What, if anything, can the Lakers do about it?

Much more after the jump...

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