Well Lakers, you did something no one in L.A. thought you could ever do; you played WORSE than you did on Christmas Day. After that wretched date with the team that most everyone believes will snatch that Larry O’Brien trophy from your grasp, all the waiting began — waiting for you all to show up to these regular season games and play like you’re after something; waiting for that fire and will to win to blow out from the same competitors who seized every game last season like it was theirs to own; waiting for you all to step onto the floor and play like you mean it from jump ball to final buzzer.
With this 7-game winning streak, it appeared you were finally ready to defend that title. The wait was over! Now to end that efficient string of wins on this note? Getting behind by 30 points and then losing by 16? It looks like we are all back again… still waiting…
The first 89 seconds of this game against the Oklahoma City Thunder indicated everything we needed to know regarding the outcome of this game. In those 89 seconds to start the evening, three fouls had been called on the road team — one foul apiece for Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant.
The early foul calls should have been a signal to how watchful these officials would be calling the game. In such a case, a veteran team might take the hint — bring the ball inside, draw the fouls, but no. This is not how the Lakers operated tonight. They, instead, decided not to run their offense, stay muted on defense, and not rebound. As John Ireland reported at halftime, the Lakers coaching staff said that in the first half, the team did everything that they were told NOT to do and in effect, played into a loss they certainly deserved.
After such a successful defensive second half against the Spurs, the second coming of the Defensive Player of the Year was heralded. Ron Artest was again a lean, mean, stealing machine. Against a taller, young, prolific scorer like Kevin Durant, however, Ron allowed 26 points on 9-19 shooting. It wasn’t all his fault, however. There are four other teammates on the floor, but none came to his aid tonight.
Russell Westbrook, a second year guard who has come into his own this season, went off for 23 points on 10-13 shooting. He is fearless and scored from everywhere he pleased. The Lakers are aware of their weakness in defending quick guards, but they have succeeded when help defense, or any active defense, was executed. Maybe after using so much on George Hill, the team is suddenly low on D and E (effort, that is).
Every player in a road uniform gets the blame for tonight’s ridiculous imitation of “basketball”.
Lamar scored a team high 15 points and 7 rebounds — playing with pain in his shoulder, lack of explosiveness is understandable, but this is not enough to cover for Andrew’s absence.
Pau had 9 points on 3-10 and 5 boards — getting the touches he’d been asking for but not capitalizing on them. How often could a missed floater have been a made dunk?
Kobe notched 11 points on 4-11 shooting and collected 9 turnovers! The defense wasn’t stifling. He often just lost his footing and sent an array of aimless passes.
18 turnovers in all for the Lakers and not one player with double-digit rebounds. Assists collected this evening — 7 vs. 15; in favor of the Thunder. Working in an offense predicated on ball movement, with just seven assists, the root of the Lakers’ offensive woes is obvious.
In a game where the Lakers could have shown off their veteran smarts against a team wrought with youth and energy, they instead decided to show their veteran hubris. In a game that followed such an enlightening and dominating evening against San Antonio, they instead decided to reject momentum and start over.
The team’s strategies this season have been baffling to say the least. In games where they had the obvious upsides and proven success, they chose to be daring and wander through unfamiliar routes. With height advantages over opponents like Phoenix, they chose to go away from their inside strength. In games where they should have been the proud and confident aggressors for merely earning that championship trophy last season, against a team like Cleveland, they cowered.
With a chance to exploit inexperience tonight, against a young Thunder team, the veteran Champions chose to be the reckless ones.
Pre-game Thoughts: Veterans vs. the Young Guns — should be an exciting game!
Half-time Thoughts: Waiting for the Lakers to do something good. Actually, waiting for the Lakers to just do SOMETHING.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: No one wearing a Lakers uniform tonight had any kind of thoughts so let’s just leave it there.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: The young Oklahoma City Thunder, who showed EVERYONE, at the expense of the defending champions, that they are better than just “up and coming.” They are here and everyone in the league needs to take notice.