At the end of the first three quarters, Lakers fans everywhere stared at their televisions with bemused grins. The team was up on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, sometimes by double-digits. It was that same feeling when you find a one dollar bill in your pocket--sure, that's great. But ultimately, a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. What good is one dollar going to do you in the long run?
Thanks to the presumptive 2013-2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant, that dollar didn't preserve the Lakers for another 12 minutes.
KD and the Thunder stormed back against the Lakers, grabbing their first lead of the game late into the fourth quarter and eventually prevailing in LA, 107-103. The ever-plucky Show outscored OKC for the first three quarters, slowing a usually unstoppable offense and battling for boards at a seldom-seem rate this season. In the end, they kept the Thunder to just 44% shooting and only lost the rebounding battle by two, both gigantic moral victories. However, all the morals in the world couldn't stop Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper dropped 43 points on the Lakers, adding 12 boards and 7 assists to his monster night. To their credit, LA made him work for his shots all night, but Durant's relentless drive and difficult shot-making ability was simply too Kobe-esque. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, part of a 35-21 frame that ultimately undid the Lakers. However, as great as Durant was, the game-tying three-pointer came from a different, albeit familiar source: Derek Fisher, who bless his heart, scored 12 points off the bench in what should be one of his last visits to STAPLES Center.
In a season where losses are expected, the Lakers have a lot to be proud about in this game. First and foremost, no one got hurt. That fact, as pathetic as it sounds, is almost definitely more valuable than a win these days. Moving to the box score, the Lakers were excellent scoring the ball, hitting 48% of their shots, including a crisp 19/10/6 from the resurgent Chris Kaman (improving his trade stock by the game) and a great 14/7/17 night from Kendall Marshall. LA again played with just 8 men, each of whom registered double-digit minutes on the night. It still remains to be seen just how soon they'll be getting any more help from the inactive roster--besides Xavier Henry, six players are to be evaluated after the All-Star break. Though the injuries eventually limited the Lakers, it didn't look like it for the first three quarters--after all, they were winning. And they made it look easy.
However, even as their defense and rebounding refused to fail them for just one night, LA couldn't shake their other prevailing problem: turnovers. They had 22 on the night, as a pesky and handsy Thunder defense popped the ball out of their hands time after time. No one was particularly to blame on his lonesome--no Laker had more than four turnovers--so rather it was a true team effort.
The Lakers head in to the All-Star break with their worst record in almost a decade, sitting tied at the very bottom of the Western Conference and presumably the fifth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. This game was completely emblematic of their first half--maximum effort from a short-handed team, but ultimately falling just short.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino