The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road in a 122-105 loss that was nearly a giant comeback win for the purple and gold. Unfortunately the Lakers were unable to capitalize on cutting the lead down to five points with six minutes remaining, and the Thunder prevailed. This loss doesn't necessarily destroy their playoff odds, but it would have been extra fuel to help propel their quest to land in the playoffs.
The Lakers were unable to score for six straight minutes, and had a handful of exchanges that could have cut the lead even further until the Thunder slammed the door shut. In this edition of The Playbook we'll take a look at the defining stretch in the fourth quarter, beginning with the final basket the Lakers scored that brought them within five.
This is a play out of a HORNS set, which starts out with Jodie Meeks cutting across the free-throw line and parking on the perimeter while Dwight Howard sets a screen at the top of the arc for Kobe Bryant.
The timing on the screen is a bit off, as Howard isn't necessarily in position, and in the next slide we'll see where he intended to set the pick. Kobe takes it regardless, perhaps a bit early, and drives to the key. Steve Nash is parked on the weak-side.
Howard deters Kevin Durant enough to give Kobe space to move, and now the Thunder defense must respond to the dribble penetration. Reggie Jackson has cheated off of Nash almost entirely.
Kobe kicks the ball out to Nash who is completely alone in the corner.
The Thunder do a good job of recovering, but Nash nails the three and the game tightens to only a five-point differential.
The Lakers setup identically to play #1, which ended with a Nash three as the defense collapsed on Kobe. Meeks cuts, and Dwight sets a better screen this time.
Kobe is going to take the screen. It's hard to see (rather, impossible) but there is a defender directly behind Howard here that is hedging to stop Kobe.
Kobe has a step on Durant after he brushes the screen, and now has to beat Kendrick Perkins off the dribble. Serge Ibaka is already looking to rotate and help which leaves Metta World Peace alone in the corner.
The Thunder defense collapses on Kobe, who had been passing out of dribble penetration the majority of the game.
World Peace is wide open after he pump fakes Ibaka into the crowd, but doesn't make the shot. The Lakers are still only down six at this point.
With four minutes left the Lakers are still within striking distance. Kobe Bryant has a mismatch in transition and is going to drive to the paint almost immediately. Russell Westbrook is going to rotate to try and stop the dribble penetration, leaving Nash to park on the perimeter.
Once again the Thunder defense is loaded in the paint leaving shooters wide-open along the arc. They have two defenders on Dwight, and two defenders trying to stop Kobe from penetrating.
Again, Kobe drives and kicks to Nash.
Yet another missed opportunity on an open three for the Lakers.
This is the defining sequence of this stretch. It begins after Kevin Martin misses a three-point field goal and Metta grabs the defensive rebound.
Both Durant and Westbrook are already in position to stop the fast break legend that is Metta World Peace.
However, MWP sneaks by Durant and has only Westbrook in his proximity.
He tries to finish over Westbrook and it goes about as expected: it's a brick. That's not the end of how terrible this sequence is for the Lakers, though, as the Thunder now have a transition opportunity.
Durant grabs the rebound and takes the ball up the court.
Now in secondary-transition, the Thunder have mismatches on defense. Namely: Nash trying to guard the Durantula. Both Martin and Ibaka are lining up on the weak side in the meantime.
Durant backs Nash down for a moment and slings a pass to Martin. Antawn Jamison closes out quick enough, but Martin doesn't hesitate to swing the ball over to Ibaka in the corner.
There isn't a Laker within 15 feet of Ibaka.
The picture says it all.
The Lakers fought on the road but were unable to capitalize on a handful of open looks that could have changed the trajectory of the game. Eventually, the Thunder were able to take advantage of a poor fast break from the Lakers, which led to the Lakers' defense to be completely unorganized once Durant brought the ball back up the court. The missed layup turned to easy three was a five point swing that broke the momentum the Lakers had seized.
Los Angeles' inability to score in the final six minutes of the game while the Thunder broke the dam open and flooded the purple and gold village put the game away. The play-by-play for the Lakers in that stretch looks like the following:
- MWP misses a three point jumper
- Kobe misses a 14-foot jumper
- Steve Nash misses a three point jumper
- MWP misses layup
- Durant blocks Kobe's layup
- Kobe Misses a 28-foot three point jumper
At this point, the Lakers were down 105-116 and the game was all but over. Close, but that only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.