The Los Angeles Lakers once again played down to one of the league’s worst teams, and handed the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder their second win of the season, 105-101. Both of those wins have now come against a 5-4 Lakers team that has yet to look like anything close to an NBA title contender.
In short, this was once again an utter embarrassment, no matter who was out or injured.
LeBron James sat once again, as news broke earlier Thursday that he would miss at least a week due to an abdominal strain with the Lakers taking extra precautions with their almost-37-year-old all-time great. Lakers fans then got another injury scare as Anthony Davis sprained his thumb while chasing after a loose ball just before halftime. Davis did not return until midway through the third quarter with his thumb wrapped, but still finished with an impressive 29-point, 17-rebound double-double in 37 minutes (thanks in large part to a dominant first half before his injury).
With James out, Russell Westbrook commanded the offense and provided the full Russell Westbrook experience, finishing 10-23 from the field for 27 points to go with 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 35 minutes.
The Lakers led by as many as 19 in the first half, but as was the case when they played Oklahoma City the first time this year, saw their lead slip away thanks to some incredibly sloppy play from their shorthanded bench. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 21 points on 8-18 shooting, the Lakers’ bench struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
Rajon Rondo had zero points in 15 minutes, and in his season debut, sharpshooter Wayne Ellington was just 1-6 from the field in nine minutes of action. Malik Monk only had two points in 13 minutes.
After a 7-0 run from the Lakers put them up 95-93 in the fourth, budding Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit two free throws to tie it, found Kendrick Williams wide open for a three-pointer, and then hit an absurd shot of his own from the logo.
The Lakers got within two again — thanks to clutch three-pointers from Austin Reaves and Anthony — and had a chance to tie the game with under 30 seconds remaining, but Westbrook lost the ball out of bounds for his fourth turnover of the game. Gilgeous-Alexander found Lu Dort for a wide-open dunk off the next inbounds play, adding insult to injury as the Lakers turned in another uneven defensive effort.
Anthony hit another three-pointer with eight seconds left to bring the deficit back within one, but Dort hit two free throws and Westbrook missed a three as the seconds ticked away to secure the loss.
A few minutes earlier, another loss to the Thunder featured frustrations boiling over, as Anthony had to be separated from Dort in the closing seconds. Who the Lakers should be mad at, though, is themselves for losing another game against one of the most blatantly tanking teams in years. Credit the Thunder, but credit the Lakers’ pathetic defensive effort, too. With or without LeBron, this is a horrible result that should leave the team with a lot to think about.