If there was a word to describe this entire Laker season, it’s this one.
Steve Nash is almost ready to play. Kobe Bryant is almost ready to start rehabbing. The Lakers almost have their injured players back. They almost beat the Bulls. They almost won against the Heat. And tonight, they almost defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder. Almost.
Let’s not deny it – we all probably expected a completely lopsided win tonight, with OKC at the very top of the league, and the Lakers fifth from the bottom. Surprisingly enough, however, the Lakers led the entire game…until the final 6:33 minutes of the fourth quarter. In those last minutes, OKC showed why they’re on top and the Lakers are not.
It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish, and the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, are expert finishers. They won it in the end, 107-103
Quarters 1, 2 and 3 – The Lakers did all their damage in the first three quarters of the game. They kept the Thunder at 29% from the field in the first quarter. They scored 82 points, shot 52% from the field, 44% from behind the arc, were even with OKC at 32 rebounds apiece, and they had 26 assists on 34 made field goals. They also had 14 turnovers which, for three quarters, wasn’t completely awful, especially with the Thunder committing 13 of their own. Five Lakers were in double figures and the team was playing with the proper energy level and efficiency. They went into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.
Kendall Marshall – Six Lakers scored in double figures in the end, but Marshall stood out. He finished with 14 points on 6-13, 17 assists and seven rebounds. He has been one of the most consistent players on the team, win or lose, since he arrived. Despite this season being only his second in the NBA, his court vision and game is that of a veteran.
Teamwork – With their team in dire need of able bodies, the Lakers needed every bit that each of the eight players available had to offer. Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman chipped in 19 points each. Shawne Williams, on a 10-day contract after previously being waived by the team, scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and was a catalyst in the Lakers’ lead throughout the game. Steve Blake, still nursing all sorts of injuries, put in 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, and handed out a pair of assists. Jordan Hill put in 10 points of his own on 4-7 from the field.
Fourth Quarter – What a mess! After playing so hard and efficiently the entire game, the Lakers picked the last quarter to go soft. They shot just 35% from the field, 20% from three, and were outscored by OKC, 35-21. They also committed nine turnovers in that fourth quarter alone and had only scored three points in the first four minutes. And by the way, Kevin Durant scored 19 points in the fourth.
Free Throws – 13-22 from the charity stripe – nine missed free throws. In a game that came as close as it did towards the end, this was a huge factor. OKC went 21-24 from the free throw line, 12-12 in that final quarter.
The Lakers are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and thank goodness for this All-Star weekend because the team could use a break from losing and the fans will surely appreciate a break from watching.