The Los Angeles Lakers sustained their worst loss of the season, losing by 37 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night in a STAPLES Center blowout. The loss felt like a culmination of poor efforts during their eight-game losing streak coming to a head.
Strangely enough, the Lakers were the first to strike during the matchup, galloping out to a 10-0 lead to open the game. Something changed after that, and Lakers head coach Luke Walton couldn’t quite pinpoint where it all went wrong.
“I’m gonna have to get to the tape on that. I felt like we came out the way we’ve been playing all year, which is competitive, and in the fight, and taking it to them. And then it felt like we gave in, or we felt sorry for ourselves a little bit, which isn’t who we are as a group.
“I’m gonna have to check the tape and really look into why we just completely stopped competing out there,” Walton said as he discussed the total collapse of his team.
The Lakers ended the first quarter tied with the Thunder at 26, but would go on to give up 107 points through the remainder of the game. The once-top-10 defense of the purple and gold is clearly far from what it was to start the season. There’s no better example than the 153.9 points per 100 possessions the Lakers gave up through those fateful three quarters against Oklahoma City.
“Frustrated obviously, you don’t like to lose, but then to lose like that... like I said that’s not who we are. The message after the game was just, you know, disappointing for three quarters as far as not disappointed in them, but disappointing as a group in how we played the second through fourth,” Walton said.
Walton will check the tape, but it’s clear this can all be traced back to the Lakers’ defense slipping through the month of December. Surely that has something to do with Lonzo Ball being out during the worst moments of this terrible stretch, but the team as a whole seems to have let go of the fundamentals that had them playing respectable basketball just a few months ago.
“We need to realize that this league isn’t about offense, and this league isn’t about getting numbers and getting shots, it’s about playing basketball, and playing defense, and setting screens, and focusing on all those things, because the way that that allows us to play out in transition, everyone’s going to get shots.
“Everyone’s going to get their opportunities, but it sure felt like tonight we were focused on the wrong things as a group,” Walton said.
The bad offense has gotten worse, the good defense has gone sour, and the Lakers are back to the bottom of the Western Conference. All of the above is unacceptable, and Walton’s new challenge is to turn around a season that’s quickly become more of the same we’ve seen from the purple and gold over the past several years.
“As a team, coaching staff included, our fans deserve better than that, and our organization deserves better than that.”
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com, stats via NBA.com